So My Sister Doesn’t Have To Look At The Red Eye Anymore

The Problem With Being a Boy…

It had been sometime the year before, about halfway through the football season. Every spring, Eddie would start dreaming about playing for the football team the following year. He was too small for many of the positions, but after much figuring, he imagined he might make it as a field goal kicker. He had seen the kickers on TV with their skinny little arms and their clean uniforms. That mattered not to him; they were on the team. They were football players.

It was hard for him to imagine that the kickers, being football players, ever got bullied by anybody. So, he had decided that the upcoming summer would be one of practice for him. Then he would screw up his courage and sign up during the spring meeting for the team.

When the day arrived in late April for the sign up, Eddie was too frightened to sign up. He had walked down to Mr. Evans room, where the signup sheet hung outside the door in plain sight, but too many kids were hanging around every time he walked by. Finally, during last period, he asked

to go to the restroom. Instead, he scurried down the stairs and through the basement hallway to Mr. Evans’s door. His heart swelled up. He would do it. The sheet was gone.

After school, Eddie resolved to go back down and ask Mr. Evans where the sheet was. When he arrived, the door was closed and Mr. Evans was inside speaking with Tank Jones, one of the starting offensive linemen. Eddie thought about waiting for Tank to leave and then going in and asking for the sheet, but what would he say?

His mind ran through it. “Mr. Evans, I was wondering where the sign-up sheet was. I’d like to sign up for football next season. I know I can’t play quarterback or running back – (though Eddie often had visions of breaking around end on a pitch play and outrunning the fastest defenders to the end zone, running right past his dad who was on the sidelines talking up one of his political connections. He imagined the political connection dropping his popcorn and interrupting Eddie’s dad, and stammering, “Uh Hank… Hank! You do know your boy just ran around end and is about to score the winning touchdown? I’ve never seen anyone that fast. He’s the best Spring Creek has ever had. Hank! Shut up about your stupid political plans and watch your boy!” – no, even with his vivid imagination Eddie knew he couldn’t run the

ball, or tackle, or even block….) – Mr. Evans, I know this may seem funny but I want to sign up. Right now. I think I can kick field goals. I think I can win games for Spring Creek. I’m tired of people thinking I’m a nobody. I want to be somebody.”

Eddie looked down at his own spindly little arms. He looked back through the glass at Mr. Evans and at Tank Jones. Tank was as big as Mr. Evans. Tank was a man, and Eddie was a boy. He turned around and walked back through the hall and up the stairs.

That night, Eddie lay in bed, thinking. A plan erupted. He hadn’t signed up, but he could practice field goals anyway! If he started the next day and practiced everyday till school was out and then all summer, then by fall he could just show up at practice, pull out a tee, set a ball on it and say, “Coach, watch this.” Boom. Good, from the 40 yard line.

“Coach, that’s just a warm up. I’m good from much further out.”

Coach wouldn’t be able to resist someone automatic from that far out. He’d be on the team.

That had been the spring before when all this figuring had taken place in Eddie’s mind. He had indeed gone down to the park that next day with a football he borrowed from his friend, Von. He had located a large tree with a

wide spread of limbs. He had then walked off what he figured to be 30 yards, nudged the ball down into a little pile of leaves and moss, and then backed up a few feet and sidestepped a few feet to his left like he had seen kickers do on TV. He had looked around to see if anyone was looking, had raised his arm, like some kind of signal, though what kind and to whom he didn’t know, taken a couple of quick stutter steps to the ball and kicked, trying to extend his leg out on the release. The ball had spun quickly away, angling to the left. It had glanced off the top of a neighboring bush and skidded across the ground, stopping a full 20 feet from the base of the big tree.

“Dammit. Dammit all to hell!” Eddie had yelled out. It was the same phrase he heard from his dad so many times. “Eddie! Dammit…” Eddie had walked up to the ball and kicked it as hard as he could. It was over. He couldn’t do it.

So, as it was, spring had turned slowly into summer. Summer had eventually led to fall and the beginning of school and the Spring Creek Varsity Football Team was without one Eddie Denker, field goal kicker.

As I said, it happened halfway through that football season. Spring Creek was 2 – 2, having lost one game by two points. Eddie hadn’t been to a

game yet, but read the scores in the paper. He wondered if they should be 3 – 1 if he could’ve kicked a game winning field goal in one of their losses.

It happened midway through the first quarter of the fifth game, the first one Eddie attended. He hadn’t wanted to go, but his little brother Bruce had been called to substitute for a classmate selling concessions. Eddie’s dad made him walk Bruce to the game, and to wait until it was over and make sure Bruce got back home okay. Eddie was just hanging around near the top of the bleachers when he saw Bruce working his way through the crowd with a flat container half full of popcorn bags. All of a sudden a boy came up to Bruce and started taking the bags from the container one by one. He did it as casually as if he was moving checkers on a board. Every bag he took he handed back to one of his friends. Eddie saw that at first Bruce was smiling, probably thinking he was making an easy big sale. But when the boy had removed the final bag of popcorn and had sat back down, it quickly became clear that he had no intention of paying Bruce. Bruce just stood there, looking from one boy to the other. He said nothing.

After all, what would he say, a ten year old boy against at least four high school boys? Eddie could see the bewilderment on Bruce’s face. Just

then, Eddie saw one of the boys throw a handful of popcorn at Bruce’s face, and yell out, “Get outta the way, you little punk! I can’t see the game!” There were no adults around, and Eddie knew it was his job as the big brother to go down there and take care of little brother. He knew it. So what if the boys were older and bigger? He could at least get Bruce away from them and then yell some cusswords at them, and then he and Bruce could run away. At least appear to help his brother.

But Eddie stood there and watched. He saw a second handful of popcorn go up at his brother’s face and he saw one of the boys stand up and shove Bruce out of the way. Bruce caught his balance and worked his way back out of the crowd and back down the bleachers toward the concession stand.

Eddie didn’t see Bruce again until the end of the game, out by the front gate.

“How’d it go? Make any big money?” Eddie asked.

Bruce was silent. The air was chilled with the heaviness of fall. It was a dark night. The lights in the stadium started to go out as the two boys crossed the road toward home. Eddie wished for the next day when he could go up into the woods alone and find the remains of a giant chestnut stump, a

flickering death remaining from the grand era gone by. He wished for things before he was born. He made himself try again.

“Make any money at all?”

Bruce sobbed a little. “No. “

The boys turned and made their way down a familiar alley.

“I ain’t doing that again, Eddie.”

“Why not?”

“You know why. You ask me, yet you know why.”

Eddie walked on quietly for a moment.

“I’m sorry, Bruce.”

The boys walked on, emboldened to be together, yet afraid of what they didn’t know.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Tenuous Thread, Plucked

Here’s what I know or have heard about the Ebola virus. It causes terrible sickness, does not produce symptoms for up to three weeks after infection, and if one dies, it can be an exceedingly brutal way to exit this life. Eyeballs bleed; internal organs liquefy. The disease most recently flared up in west Africa, and due to poor containment protocol in that impoverished area, has since spread to various parts around the globe. This outbreak has already exceeded all past Ebola outbreaks combined in numbers of infection.

Fear is growing that a pandemic is in the works.

(It is possible that the man sitting next to me on my commuter train has an uncle whose next door neighbor’s aunt’s best friend’s co-worker got off a plane from New York just last week. While in New York, he rode in a taxi driven by a Liberian national, here on a fake visa, whose dear brother – infected brother – had just visited the Big Apple from their home country. Now all of these individuals are unknowingly infected, unknowingly mind you, and as I read my paper on the train, the man sitting next to me happens to sneeze. A tiny smudge of particulate loaded with Ebola virus lands in a minuscule glob on the back of my hand, unnoticed. He says, “Excuse me,” as I simultaneously say, “Bless you.” We exchange a friendly nod. I am happily ensconced in the everyday social interchange trumpeted as healthy by most psychologists.

Seconds later, my nose itches, so I scratch it. Voila, said viral matter enters into John Wilson Bach. 21 days of symptom-free living follow, during which time I unknowingly infect hundreds of others. By Labor Day, I am admitted to the hospital in Helena, Montana, where I just played pretty darn well in the 18th Annual Pride and Progress Golf Tournament. My eyes are bleeding, my fever is spiked, and I am about to exit this life for my meeting with the Creator of the Universe.

Now this scenario is unlikely, granted. Especially since I don’t ride a commuter train and I don’t play golf in Labor Day tournaments, nor do I ever visit Helena, Montana, which surely should be on my bucket list. Point is, whatever bucket list I might have could be violently truncated by this microscopic organism known as Ebola).

Back to what I know or have heard. Over 50% of those individuals infected with this virus die. There are no immunizations or effective treatments for the disease. Modern global travel by hip people of all diverse races, religions, creeds, sexual orientations, and genders could indeed lead to a pandemic.

Now, regardless of the veracity of my knowledge, three possibilities present themselves…

1. Should a pandemic ensue, millions upon millions could die painfully horrible deaths. All that they have, all that they know to be pleasurable and all that they selfishly love, all of it could be negotiable in their screams or silent prayers for rescue. Anything to relieve the misery. Healthcare workers, intent upon helping or at least relieving the suffering, would fall ill and die as well. I’m thankful for Obamacare which is surely driving more youngsters into the medical field, probably in droves. Anyway, it is reported that upon death the peak of contagionability (made that word up) is reached. Therefore, those yucky people who embalm and cremate dead bodies are in danger as well.

Speaking of this- as an aside – what makes a young man or woman look around at all the available career pursuits and choose the funeral field? Hmmmm, I could be an accountant, a race car driver, a postman – sorry, progressives, post person – or… hmmmm…. I got it! I’m gonna be a mortician. I’m gonna work with dead people all day. As an aside to my aside, Is it oxymoronic to make a “living” in the funeral field? This is all akin, in my mind, to a young med student looking through the courses of future study and possible specialties and… Yes! Proctologist! That’s what I want! No heart surgery or setting broken bones for me… no, I’m gonna spend my days looking up rears! I think the correct term might actually be ani – think “octopi” – but since I am unsure, I defaulted to the familiar “rears.”

Man, my Adderall must be wearing off. I am WAY off track.

So, to conclude #1…. millions die. Millions, at least.

2. Part A. I am misinformed and Ebola isn’t that bad. More like a harsh case of the flu. It spreads, but not that many die, and by the World Series, most have forgotten about it. Then the midterm elections come around, thousands upon thousands of dead Democrats miraculously vote – we can’t have voter id laws, of course – and talk of 2016 begins in earnest. The whole bleeding from the eyes was just an ugly rumor started by a disenchanted nurse interviewed by a rookie news guy in an ill-fitting suit. The story was initially cut by his wise editor, but then the reporter’s unemployed brother-in-law blogged about it, it was picked up by a local rag, and before long trumpeted as truth over the cyber sphere.

2. Part B. I am not misinformed, Ebola is turrrrrible, but zillions of really smart people figure out a way to contain it so only people in third world countries bleed from the eyes and die. That way, those of us in the States and in cool Western European countries can pretend that all is well with the world and drink our expensive coffees and continue to care about meaningless things. As long as we can get the good deals on Black Friday, all is well with the world. Turn that TV off, Junior, I don’t want to see dead bodies piled up in the streets of Monrovia. I’m eating. Honey, this is really good lasagna. What time are the Harveys coming over Saturday?

3. This whole “event,” pre-packaged as a societal black swan event, is really just one big old false flag, dreamed up by the liberal media to take attention away from our shredded borders and Obama’s pitiful approval numbers. It’s so easy to rile up Teabagger party members, to borrow a term they use. It’s also easy for the simple-minded to fall for a woman candidate with zero credibility (the Lizard Queen, Hillary), or with zero experience (the punchy, fake squaw grandmother, Elizabeth). One of them can surely lead America to liberal greatness. Now, there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one…. liberal greatness.

Whatever happens, 1, 2, or 3, we should be reminded that life is fragile. Durable individually, yet fragile collectively.

I have no idea what that means. Let me try again.

We, as a people group… no…. let’s see…. okay…. People tend to think that the now is king. The past is queen. The future is… royalty yet unnamed.

Man, I’m struggling. Come on, Adderall… work!

Here. Life is short. Some may live to be over a hundred; some may be ripped out of mama’s tummy before it even really gets going. Most are in between. However long you live, however long I live, we each will die. I might just catch that virus and bleed from my eyes and pass away in agony. You might live long and healthy and finally slip away in your sleep on a downy bed. We might both die, looking at each other in a head on crash. (Unless you’re in a Smart car, and I don’t even notice the collision).

You might have just died of boredom reading this. Goodness knows I’m sick of the subject. Regardless, know this. The silver cord will sever. You will go into eternity. What will you say then?

There is the story of a rich man who was about to die.  Brokenhearted at having to leave his riches behind, he formulated a plan. He died one night, but somehow managed to sneak a briefcase full of gold into the hereafter. Upon meeting Peter at the pearly gates, he was asked about the briefcase.

Peter: You can’t bring that in here.

Rich Man: Come on, it’s just a briefcase. Please?

Peter: No.

Rich Man: Please?

Peter: Let me see what’s in it first.

(Peter opens the case. The man looks around in arrogance, the line of the recently departed stretching behind him, each individual carrying nothing. The man is proud of his cunning).

Peter: You brought pavement?

How proud we are. How tenuous is the thread that binds you to this mortal coil.

Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and be saved.

 

Luke 12:20 “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Corporate Headquarters

I read the other day about some expert who worked for a think tank. The gentleman was well versed in some opinion – I forget which subject – and at the end of his quote, the article stated that the gentleman worked for a think tank.

That got me to thinking that maybe I would like to work for a think tank also. Not knowing exactly what one was, I put my expositional skills to work and soon realized that doing such work involved thinking, and possibly some type of tank.

Now, if it’s one thing I like to do, it’s think. When I’m not on my medication, I can sit in a chair for hours at a time… the chair doesn’t even have to be comfortable. I can sit in it for hours and while away the time pondering all types of subjects. It’s easy to do. There is no labor involved, nor do I grow tired from thinking. Thinking just happens. You don’t have to think about it.

Try this experiment: Set a timer for two minutes. Try not to think of anything for that two minutes. You can’t. The mind is always in gear. Granted, some have higher gears than others. My mind prefers a slow country stroll through natural vistas. Some people prefer faster cogitating. Whatever the pace, a person cannot refuse to have thoughts.

So, as I thought about thinking, I decided to open up my own think tank. I decided to start the very next morning. I called my think tank, JWB Enterprises International. Of course, there was nothing enterprisal about it, nor was it international, but I liked the title. I tweaked it a bit later and added the words, “Western Region,” just to make the organization as a whole seem bigger. JWB Enterprises International, Western Region. No one needed to know that the corporate office was a room in my basement normally used for storage.

Even though I was founding an international think tank, I decided to start local. By midmorning I hoped to be regional and by early afternoon I planned to go national. I figured right before closing time I could think some thought about China, or somewhere overseas, and thus be international as I claimed to be.

That first morning in business, it became clear to me in no time that this was hard work. My mind raced (for me). I couldn’t stop thinking about anything and everything. I needed focus. So I decided to quit for the day and redouble my efforts for the following morning. One day down, zero dollars generated.

That evening, as I pored over my lack of receipts and revenue, I realized the beauty, the sheer, unadulterated, altruistic beauty of being a Democrat. I didn’t have to produce anything! I could get paid minimum wage just by showing up!! Plus, I had rights to paid paternity leave, vacation, 401k, ESOP, outplacement counseling, disability, workman’s comp… the list was endless. I had no idea if all of these ideas fell within the aegis of Democratic thought; I just wanted to maximize my benefits. Also, I didn’t really know what “aegis” meant, but I sure liked the sound of it. I thought I might someday start a second company with Aegis somewhere in the title. At any rate, that same evening, my thoughts turned to how I could game my own think tank.

The very next morning I marched into the storeroom and demanded minimum wage. Done.

401k. Done. I asked for 6% matching contribution, but just for the hell of it I doubled it to 12.% Then I scolded myself for inappropriate language in the workplace and wrote a reminder in my corporate calendar to call the ACLU if it happened again.

ESOP. Done.

Expanded workman’s comp in the event I was disabled or hurt in any way at work. Done.

Paternity leave. Done. Even though all of our chilluns had been born years before – heck, some of them were almost as old as me – I still demanded and received this critical benefit.

I was loving private enterprise! I felt a twinge of guilt thinking that way, so I decided to switch JWB Enterprise International, Western Region to non-profit status. I felt better instantly. I’m telling you, you have to give these Democratic ideas a try!

I went a little far, however, when I filed a complaint of sexual harassment. In my pre-trial motion, I even stressed the first syllable of the word “harassment” rather than the second syllable (try it – you’ll sound smarter), but it didn’t work. I realized I had overreached, that one cannot sexually harass oneself (at least not publicly in the workplace), so I thought about it, and then I doubled down and sued myself for not adhering to accepted, government-approved, sexual harassment policy. To strengthen my case, I claimed to be a double transgendered male seeking reparations for inappropriate and agitative behavior in the workplace. I threw in bullying, too, and a smidgeon of misogyny and xenophobia, though I hadn’t a clue what they were. Anyway, being double transgendered meant I wouldn’t have to put on a dress… according to legal precedent, it actually meant that I knew myself to be a man, in a man’s body, who was self-actualized enough to dress like one and laugh occasionally at a well-timed dirty joke. Far too outrageous for the liberal courts. My case was dismissed.

After all of the human resource issues and snafus got ironed out, I finally got down to the business at hand. Thinking. What to think about? I created an action plan. Hmmmmm…

Policy. That’s it.

Here’s what I thought. How about we have a society where men and women are free to use their God-given abilities to realize their own potential and profits in an open and free society within a moral but least-restrictive environment. Hmmmmm… what does that look like? I thought about it…

Low taxes… we need that, so our incentive to produce isn’t smothered.

Freedom to express opinions without fear of censure, fine, or imprisonment… we need that. After all, they are just opinions.

Secure borders… we need that, so the whole world doesn’t invade. There are only so many EBT’s to go around. (I realize Social Security needs propping up, but there must be a better way than rampant amnesty).

Freedom to fail… we need that. After all, if I decide to open up a useless business providing products or services that nobody wants or needs, the marketplace should be allowed to naturally shut me down. We don’t need centralized power to determine artificial pricing, wages, or production. Out the window goes minimum wage, agricultural subsidies, wealth redistribution, Obamacare, and equal pay legislation (a manufactured problem anyway).

As the second day of my think tank wore on, and my medication wore off, I realized that my nonprofit company was itself not needed. I was providing nothing of value. I decided to blog about it and provide even more nothing of value.

And you took the time to read about it. Thank you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Closer Than A Brother

“Daddy, why are we going downtown? I forgot…. to see who?” The little boy held onto the pole next to him as the train ambled along toward Chicago from the suburbs. His father, John Wilson Bach, sat beside him and his older brother across from him. The train was crowded.

“Want to see my friend, remember?”

“Oh yeah.”

The boy looked ahead. “What’s his name? Ginger?”

“Yes. Ginger Bob.”

“That’s a funny name. Is it his real name?”

“It’s what everyone calls him.”

The thought occurred to John Wilson that no one called Ginger Bob by any name anymore, probably. Maybe a few of the other street people did.

The boy stared at his brother and tried to remember something. He rubbed his eyes. ‘Where does he live again? I forgot.”

He lives in the city, but he doesn’t have a home. John Wilson patted the overstuffed backpack resting on his lap. “That’s why we’re taking him this stuff.”

The boy looked up at his dad. “ He doesn’t have any stuff?”

“Well, no… yes, he has stuff. It’s just that his stuff is probably getting old. Time for new.”

“What about the guitar?” the boy asked. “Gonna give him that too?”

“No, just hoping he might play it for us.”

The train jerked a bit on the tracks and John Wilson grabbed the backpack to keep it from falling. The older son across the way looked out the window. The neighborhood through which they passed was run down. A few scattered people walked about. A group of young thugs sat along a stoop to an empty building.

“Must be getting close,” the boy announced. “I remember this neighborhood.”

John Wilson looked out and agreed, “Not too much further.”

“How long we gonna stay?” the younger brother asked, resting his head back and rolling it from side to side against the window pane behind him. He didn’t wait for the answer but continued, “Mom says we gotta be back by supper. Grandma’s coming over.”

“We will be,” John Wilson sighed. “Don’t worry.”

 

John Wilson wondered if or when he would explain to his boys how the name Ginger Bob had evolved from his friend’s given name, Robert Edward Ginger. Would they even care how it happened? Would the curiosity of a child even hold for such a mundane explanation?

The memory ran its familiar course through his mind. First day of gym class years before, each boy lined up by his last name. John Wilson near the start with the last name of Bach. Joe Young bringing up the end. Just to the left of middle stood Robert Edward Ginger. That’s all there was to it. A simple misunderstanding by the boy’s mother. Each boy’s white shorts and t shirt marked with his name in block letters as the coach had instructed the first day. Each lined up for roll call. That was it. The sum total. A simple mistake by a loving mother who wrote her son’s last name first, then a comma, then the first name. Ginger, Robert.

John Wilson remembered the coach walking along with his clipboard, checking off each boy’s name for attendance. Something made him stop at Robert Ginger. The coach looked at the boy, rechecked his clipboard, and then declared the new moniker that would travel with the boy as his shadow… all through that gym class and through all of junior high and then all of high school. Into a year of failure at college, a couple of years at various labor jobs, a stint in the Navy, back into a meaningless work history, and eventually into the barbaric and kaleidoscope nonreality of mental illness on the streets of the city.

“Ginger Robert?” the coach asked. John Wilson could still hear it.

“Robert Gin…” the boy tried to correct.

“Ginger Robert?”

“No, sir,” the boy attempted again.

The coach snickered and shook his head.

“Ginger.”

The boy stood silently.

“Robert.”

The boy stood silent in defeat, and nodded.

“Ginger Robert,” the coach announced to the class. “We have a new student with us,” he continued, “Ginger Rob…” his eyes shifted. “Ginger Bob!”

Some of the classmates laughed. The boy shrugged his shoulders and laughed in defense of himself and that was that.

Ginger Bob it was.

 

A half hour later, John Wilson and his boys spotted Ginger Bob crumpled up in a heap next to a building, his arms folded up over his head to ward off the heat of the late morning sun. Had John Wilson not been looking carefully, the pile of humanity before him could have been mistaken for a disheveled bunch of laundry. Discarded. Not to be washed.

Two high top tennis shoes, both without laces, below a thin veil of pants, settled below a long-used t shirt with a man in it.

The face was hidden between the raised arms, but the stringy, greasy hair was aloft, flopped about and unkempt, as a little boy might wear on a Saturday morning sitting before the television. The man was asleep.

“Ginger?” John Wilson asked, to make sure. Nothing.

“Is it him, Dad?” the older boy asked. This bum didn’t seem so different from the others they had passed as they walked from the train station. Some had cardboard signs. Some had coats on even. None had much facial expression if any, Their eyes, if open, staring out of sunken sockets. One had introduced himself repeatedly to the passing boys as Charles Manson. The boys asked the dad after rounding the next corner if that was the man’s real name. ‘No,” he answered.

John Wilson tried again a little louder, “Ginger?”

A cat poked his head out from under the remains of Ginger’s chest, as a butler might look out when answering the door for his employer. He looked at John Wilson, looked at the boys, then sprang out onto the sidewalk and stretched.

Ginger looked up, squinting. “Huh?”

“it’s me, John Wilson Bach.” The cat rubbed against the younger boy’s leg. Ginger said nothing.

“How are you, my friend? I brought the boys to meet you. Mind if we sit down?”

Ginger looked around as if to see where he was. He puckered his lips, looked up again at John Wilson and rubbed his eyes with open palms.

“Boss,’ he said. He nodded his head.

John Wilson sat beside his old friend and stuck out his hand for a handshake. Ginger only stared at the gesture and looked to the ground. He then kissed the air, nodded, and said, “Boss,” again. John Wilson patted Ginger on the shoulder.

“Boys, sit down here beside me and let’s visit my old friend for a bit, what say?”

“Okay, Dad.”

“Sure.”

 

The first few minutes passed in silence. At one point, Ginger stared at John Wilson as if examining him. He tilted his head and held it that way for a bit, and then tilted it back and looked a while longer. He nodded his head quite often, almost to the point of a violent tremor at times. At one point, finally, he slapped the concrete beside him, kissed the air, performed one dramatic nod and said, ‘I know, I know.”

John Wilson knew the antics of his friend. He knew the shell of the man robbed long before of his senses. Robbed slowly but left a victim nonetheless. Each visit the same… a hint at muted recognition at best.

This spot on the sidewalk, hot against a highrise office building, this spot was his friend’s retirement, his hospital, his front yard, his vacation trips, his needless errands, all rolled into one. It would eventually be his place to die, John Wilson supposed.

On the way back, later, the questions would come as to why they couldn’t take Ginger home with them, why they couldn’t hire someone to take care of him, why they couldn’t at least give him some money. John Wilson would answer the best he could.

“Boooooo-oooooossssss!” Ginger suddenly erupted, voice rising as a shout. The boys jumped a bit and giggled. The ever-passing crowd jogged in its course, the loud voice of Ginger bouncing them back as a rock thrown into a lake might scare a school of fish.

John Wilson patted his friend’s shoulder again. “Thirsty, Ginger?” He reached into the pack he brought for his friend and pulled out a bottle of water.

Ginger took the bottle of water and held it to his chest. He squeezed his eyes shut twice and then looked to the heavens. “Oooooohhh… get me some wash, boss. Get me some wash.”

He looked back down at John Wilson and thrust the quickly-sweating bottle toward him. “Boss wanna wash?” He tilted his head like a puppy.

John Wilson looked down, “No thanks, Ginger.”

“Boys wanna wash?” he leaned out and held the bottle around John Wilson toward the two boys.

They shook their heads in unison.

“Okay by me, boss.”  He tucked the bottle under his shirt against his bare stomach. John Wilson glimpsed the white flesh, even in repose stretched tightly over the gaunt frame of his friend. The ever-passing jumble of legs busied themselves in his periphery. A few cars passed. A horn sounded, tinny and hollow as it rang against the towering steel and glass structures. Someone cursed in response.

“My boys here wanted to meet you, Ginger.” Ginger nodded his head and looked straight out.

“And I been meaning to get back down here for awhile myself.”

Ginger kept nodding at a decreasing pace. He looked around as if bored.

The legs continued by. The boys kicked each other playfully.

“Boys, I didn’t tell you about Ginger playing football.”

Ginger stopped nodding and raised his eyebrows. His cat was snuffling around in his shirt and licking the perspiring bottle of cold water. He retreated momentarily, looked at John Wilson and meowed and repositioned himself for better leverage to get at the moisture.

Ginger scratched his chin and rubbed his forefinger and thumb repeatedly into the grizzle.

“1977. October 3rd, if I remember.” John Wilson continued. “Big game against Falcone High. Damn hoity toity kids…” The boys looked up to their dad and then at each other. They smiled in unison at their dad’s use of the word, “damn.”

Ginger looked away, took in a big breath that raised his shoulders, held it and exhaled just as big a sigh, his shoulders melting back into his tshirt. He patted his knees with open palms.

“Ginger here passed for 212 yards that night, boys. Ran for another 82, most of those on his own. Our line was shot.” John Wilson laughed. “I sure wasn’t any help.”

Ginger jutted out his chin and said, “Wash.” He rocked in place and rubbed his face.

John Wilson looked up at him.’

“Do you remember, Ginger?”

Ginger patted the bottle and pushed his cat away.

“Yep.”

John Wilson looked back at the ground, wishing it were true. Wishing his friend could remember. Years before whatever it was had stolen his mind. He poked between his drawn up knees at a loose rock.

“That ain’t all,” he continued, picking up the rock and rolling it like a booger. ‘Knocked JD Cooke on his tight little ass three times.”

“Dad!” the older boy erupted. The younger one stared, mouth open as if in a dentist’s chair, staring in awe at his brother.

“What? He did! Started at quarterback and played defensive end too! Least that night he did. High school kid at that!”

Ginger snickered.

“294 yards of total offense and three solo sacks. Game of the year, they said.”

“Wow!” the older brother said, leaning around his dad to take in the measure of Ginger.

“Wow!” the younger brother echoed.

“Wow is right, boys. That’s old Ginger for ya.”

“Did he play in college or the pros?” the older boy asked.

“No, boys…. No.” John Wilson searched for more to say. He shook his head.

Ginger picked at his teeth. His cat had earned free passage to the bottle, licking it intently now.

Again, a horn sounded, this time a block away. A mime had taken up stage on a far corner, capturing a gathering crowd.

John Wilson sighed. “Let’s sit here a little while longer, boys, and then we can go home. We’ll get some ice cream on the way.”

The older boy pumped his little fist in the air, “Yes!”

The younger boy asked, “Can Ginger come with us?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“He just can’t…”

“I wanna show him to my friends. I wanna see him throw a football.”

“Well, he can’t, so be quiet for now, okay?” John Wilson looked at his littlest boy and smiled at him.

The boy looked back at him. He swallowed a little, becoming embarrassed at his suggestion, “Okay, Daddy.”

Ginger lifted his shoulders again and sighed. He fumbled in his backpack for a cigarette.

John Wilson repeated, “Let’s just sit here a little while.”

 

The sun angled from the glass walls surrounding the foursome, gathering its heat from building to building. Passersby glanced down occasionally. A little girl walked by, her hand in the hand of her own daddy, he a hip young professional beside his equally hip wife, the girl’s mother. The little girl gazed not at the bum, but at the youngest boy, and he returned her gaze. She smiled and looked at her daddy, pulling on his hand as they walked away, and after getting his attention she pointed back at the boy now retreating from her. He looked back, interrupted himself ever so briefly to respond, “I see…” and continued on. The little girl looked ahead too, finally, as the crowd filled in between them.

Many more little girls and little boys passed by, all in the knowledge of safe passage at the sides of their parents. Life was to be enjoyed this day. Many adults of many ages passed by, their numbers in the thousands, perhaps, if one cared to count. The minutes ticked by, the sun edging around on its arc.

Ginger found another cigarette in his pack, this one previously half-smoked. He struck a match and cupped his hands as a master lighter of cigarettes might, if there was such a vocation. There was scant breeze available to bother the flickering flame though, and the exhaled smoke hung about as the haze from a smoke bomb. The little boys watched and enjoyed the smell of it.

The littlest boy began to pretend to smoke, cupping his hands in imitation and blowing out his breath through puckered lips.

John Wilson felt sleepy, his head resting against the brick. The heat baked his thoughts, even in the shade. He remembered back to high school summers and the past hot days he knew during the August football practices. Each day had held the coming promise of a perfect season. 1977 was to be a banner year. The game against Falcone had indeed been the apex of a season as perfect as could be hoped for. Ginger Bob was as quick as they came on offense with an arm that could whip a rope to a slanting receiver or loft a perfect lob, free-throw in its gentility, dropping right where needed, even in a nest of outstretched arms. Ginger Bob, the subject of many game films passed among high school coaches, the subject of many articles of small town sports reporters.

Years later, in fact, J.D. Cooke would dream occasionally of Ginger coming at him, unblocked, a dog attacking. He would see the face framed within the advancing helmet and hear his own pads being popped and feel his body being slammed back and his breath punched out of him against the ground. He would awaken and rub his eyes in his middle-aged sleep and shake his head and shiver a bit, all those years later. And he would wonder, briefly, whatever happened to that boy who had stolen his senior year glory from him.

 

“Daddy, I’m bored,” the older boy said.

John Wilson opened his eyes and blinked a few times. He looked around.

The passing legs were a bit fewer in number, and for a third time, louder than ever, Ginger lifted his shoulders and let them collapse with a massive sigh.

“One more thing…” John Wilson grabbed his guitar case and pulled it to his lap. He unlatched the case and pulled his guitar out.

“Will you, Ginger?” The boys perked up a bit.

Ginger shook his head and rubbed his hands together. He placed them as in prayer under his chin and looked up at the sky. “Gotta wash is wash, boss. Hot, hot today, boss.”

John Wilson held the guitar to him. Ginger looked at it and kissed the air. He looked ahead.

“Ginger? Please? I’d really like my boys to hear you.”

Ginger reached over and took the guitar from John Wilson. His squeezed the neck of it with his smudged hands, his overgrown fingernails striped black. When he released the too-tight grip the guitar buzzed a little in protest.

“He plays the guitar too? the older boy asked. The younger boy leaned over to watch.

“Best player I know.” John Wilson said.

Ginger straightened up ever so little and pushed the now resting cat off of his lap. The cat arched his back and spread his claws in stretching. He sneezed a little cat sneeze. Ginger cradled the guitar and strummed, holding no chord. He sat still.

“Little wash,” he whispered.

John Wilson leaned in a little. Ginger sat still, screwing his lips sideways and chewing against the inside of his cheek.

“Okay, Ginger. Okay.” John Wilson sat back.

A chord sounded. The shriveled man whose only family was a homeless cat, who didn’t own more than his own clothes, who never again would see more of the world than a couple of blocks of concrete and glass and steel, and the ever crowding people… he played, the successful banker from the suburbs beside him with his two boys in tow.

More chords followed, followed by a brief pause and then a surprising foray up the neck of the guitar. The beauty surprised even John Wilson, who grinned as a man might when receiving a long-desired gift on his birthday. He looked at his boys. They were smiling in return. The shaded sunlight presented them as angels to their father, and he tussled their hair each in turn.

The guitar continued and then a familiar tune. John Wilson found himself singing softly.

“Amazing grace… how sweet the sound,,, that saved a wretch… like me….”

An older couple stopped to watch and listen, thinking they might be witnessing an act.

“I once was lost… but now am found…. was blind…  but now I see.”

The couple moved on, the man relieved he hadn’t had to give money.

“I’m……the……. thief…..” Ginger whispered as he played. John Wilson stopped singing and turned to him.

“What, Ginger?”

Another run up the neck.

“I’m… the… thieeeeeef…” his voice a bit stronger.

“Ginger, I don’t understand. What do you mean you’re a…”

“I’m the thief…… on the cross….,” he flinched as he spoke.

John Wilson was surprised by the sudden metallic tingle behind his brow, the quick fog in his vision. He hadn’t cried in years.

The guitar stopped and Ginger sang suddenly, a gruff and muted voice, “Remember me…. remember me… oh, Lord, remember me.” He kissed the air and rocked twice.

John Wilson blinked and looked to his boys again.

The guitar continued then. Ginger’s head bowed low as he pulled a different melody from the strings. His head swayed, and shook no, as if in answer to the ground below him. He looked up and at John Wilson.

“I’m the thief… on the cross,” he sang again.

John Wilson understood and laughed the burst of a man stifling a cry, but too late. His nostrils flared, his eyes welled up, his shame at all he had accomplished in life and branded as his own consuming him. He sobbed a little. He grabbed his friend and pulled him close and whispered, “I’m the thief, too, Robert. I’m the thief, too…” Ginger continued to play and hum, unaffected. John Wilson sat back and wiped his eyes, embarrassed. His boys stared at him and arose to scurry into his lap.

“It’s okay, Daddy,” the older one offered. The younger one patted the strong shoulders.

John Wilson gathered his wits and breathed deep. A brief repose as he sniffed and smiled and nodded at his sons. They beheld him in wonder.

It was then that Ginger sang out, calling on the name of his Creator, the name of the One Who would never leave him … “Remember me, Jesus. Remember me, oh Lord…”

John Wilson looked to the heavens and sobbed again, his strong shoulders heaving, his soul free and his arms full of boys, the softening voice of Ginger continuing around him, yearning for the kingdom.


“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I Can’t Quit, Lord… This Ain’t Pee Wee Football.

When I was in sixth grade, I decided to go out for football. I was a little kid, but that did not deter me. I was of average coordination, could run, pass, kick, and throw respectfully well, so I joined the Pee Wee football program. I had played Boys Club basketball for a few years, and a little baseball.

At any rate, I talked my best friend into joining with me. How we did practice in our yards leading up to the first official team practice! We talked football talk. We talked of being starters and scoring touchdowns and winning games. We talked of the future glories of being high school football players. We reveled in success before we even started.

First practice. John Wilson Bach met reality. The coach’s son had already locked up starting QB, the bastard. Running back was out as I was not a bruising runner. So, I hoped instead for wide receiver. I dutifully ran every drill and every route assigned to me, and I caught every pass thrown my way. I knew I had the job. I would be a receiver.

At some point that first practice the coach, in his infinite wisdom, called us all together. He gave us a little pep talk and lined us up for some practice plays. Before I could make my way to my wide receiver spot, he grabbed my face mask and placed me on the defensive line. I was one of the smallest kids out there, probably the smallest in fact.

Defensive line.

I crouched. I waited for the snap. I had no idea what to do when the ball was snapped. Figured I’d follow everyone else’s lead. Immediately upon the snap I stood up from my stance. One second after that a thick, quick (for a 6th grader) fullback named Tim Young burst upon me and knocked me over onto my padded little ass. I wasn’t hurt physically, but all the pads and gear in the world couldn’t protect my budding man psyche from what followed that hit. Tim stood there and laughed. The other boys laughed. My best friend laughed. The coach laughed. I quit that day.

I say this for now it is almost 40 years later, and I can’t quit. A man cannot quit. I am a headhunter. A banking headhunter. Those not in the know say, “Oh, you find jobs for people.” It is so much more than that. The closest thing I can compare it to is being a car salesman who cold calls people in their homes and tries to sell them a car, not even knowing whether they are in the market. After zillions of “no’s” -both polite and agonizingly rude – a buyer is found. Possibility erupts. Only, the car can then decide not to be sold.

A headhunter can make upwards of 15 to 20 thousand dollars on one deal, or more or less, depending. People lie. Hiring freezes come out of nowhere. Counter offers are accepted last minute. Stupid Human Resource employees can get into the mix  Everything can go wrong. Headhunters can make nothing. It’s all commission. A headhunter can feast or starve, or sometimes gnaw hungrily on tidbits, wondering what measure of a man he is. Rejection is the water that falls daily like spring rains.

But I cannot quit. This isn’t Peewee football. Life isn’t fair. I am still mad at that coach, and his son. I am still mad about many unfair things in life. But I go on. I pick up the phone. I call folks up and get told, ” No,” or, “Get lost.” Every once in a great while I hear the sweet, “Yes.” The pitch that sticks on the green, bringing me back to play again.

This nation wasn’t built by headhunters, but it was built by men who didn’t quit. What would our forefathers say of today’s social safety nets that all but invite quitting? What would they say of our Dear Leader or his would-be replacement (the punchy, grandmotherly “populist” Senator Elizabeth Warren) who try and diffuse and nit-pick the hard-earned successes of men who don’t quit?

We are better than this. Let’s elect better.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Darkness

I hardly felt anything. Our guests said, much later, they might have felt a little tingle to the air, but nothing more than that. The kids were too busy laughing over a movie on TV to notice. My wife, deep into a conversation over a medical bill fouled up by the insurance company, didn’t feel anything either.

It went dark.

Completely and utterly dark.

The first joke came from one of our dinner guests, a banker friend, who chided, “Maybe you forgot to pay the light bill.” A few chuckles all around.

I raised my hand, pointing my finger for emphasis, “I know where the candles are. I am prepared.”

By the time I made my way to the kitchen counter, my eyes had adjusted to the darkness a bit. I peeked out through the kitchen window. It seemed eerily dark outside. And still. No house lights. No street lights. A hint of moonlight.

I heard a couple of theories already floating in from the dining room.

“Lightning strike somewhere?”

“I heard of a squirrel one time climbed up on a transformer and got zapped. Made the whole town go dark for hours.”

I heard the kids complaining lightly that their movie had just gotten to the good part.

I found my stash of candles and made my way back out to the dining room.  Five lighted candles gave the room enough light and coziness for the conversation to continue. Discussions over medical bills and kids activities changed to childhood memories of power outages. One of our guests poked her husband in the ribs and said, “Glad we’re here! We wouldn’t know where to find candles in our house.” Another guest chimed in that he wouldn’t care about candles or movies as long as his beer stayed cold. That reminded my wife that the cold items on the table should probably be put back into the refrigerator.

“I’ll help,” one of our friends offered. Turning to her husband, “Can you grab a couple of candles and light our way?”

Sometime right around then the thought entered into my mind for good. It had originally jumped in right off the bat but had been chased away in my efforts at getting the candles set up. Now it was back.

Electromagnetic Pulse.

Politicians had talked of it, conspiracy theorists had pined on and on about getting ready for it, the general public had ignored it. I had made scant provisions.

I thought to myself that if this was the event, we were screwed. Why hadn’t I listened a little more to the “What if?” side of me and made better provisions?

I quietly grabbed my car keys, mumbled that I would be right back, and made my way to the door, which was open.

Sitting on the front stoop was Jack, one of our guests. In all the hubbub and conversation, I hadn’t noticed him leaving the room or going outside.

“Jack?”

He didn’t turn to me or even look up. He just muttered something under his breath. His keys lay at his feet on the sidewalk.

“Jack, you okay?”

He spoke louder this time. “It’s over, John Wilson. She won’t start. None of ‘em will.”

‘What?” I feigned ignorance, as if somehow to quell my own fears beginning to well up.

“Go ahead and try.”

I looked over to my car parked in the driveway. The garage always managed to stay too full of stuff to park both of our cars in. My wife’s car, being the more valuable one, enjoyed the privilege. I walked resolutely, already in defeat, to my car. I reached to the remote door opener on my key chain. I hesitated and then pushed the button, waiting for the customary click of the doors unlocking. Nothing. I held the opener out and pointed it carefully toward the car. I clicked purposefully.

“It won’t start, John Wilson,” I heard Jack say. “None of ‘em will.”

I unlocked the front door with the key and got into my car. The dome light didn’t come on. I found the ignition switch, inserted the key, and turned it. Nothing.

I looked around at all of the neighbors’ houses, looking for a light, somewhere. One electric light still burning to allay my fears. Nothing.

I got out of the car, and looked at Jack. He was nodding at me, his mouth a grim line of resignation on his face. I glanced around again, looking for light. Nothing.

I stood still and bowed my head and closed my eyes. I had just realized how silent it was, and it had just registered with me that of course it would be silent. There would be no cars out on the roads, no motorcycles or trucks rumbling by, no jets flying overhead. Indeed, any jets that had been up in the sky would have already fallen down to the earth. Any crew member on board, every passenger unlucky enough to have been in flight at just that moment, anyone on the ground in the way of the crash sights, thousands of crash sights, all of them would already be dead. How many jets had slammed violently into the oceans? Perhaps some were still floating as debris, the dead within, awaiting the slippery sinking into the cold depths. No one would seek them out to bring them home.

I bowed my head and listened as intently as I could.

I had been through this scenario briefly in my mind before. Anyone in surgery would die on the table. The backup generators wouldn’t kick in. Not with this type of EMP. I reached for my knowledge on the subject. Solar or manmade? I couldn’t remember the various theories about which type would shut everything down. I was glad it was summer so we wouldn’t freeze in our own homes.

I heard some voices down the street. Down the dark street out there. Some folks were wondering aloud about the outage. Someone the other direction somewhere laughed. I wondered what was funny. I heard a door shut. Jack sighed loudly.

“Did you prepare for this?” he asked.

“No, not really,” I answered. “Thought about it… some.”

“Yeah, me too,” he scoffed a little. “Some.”

‘Jack?” His wife came out. “Jack, are you out here?”

“Yeah.’

I waved a little.

“Oh hi, John Wilson. What are you guys doing? Wow! it’s so dark, even out here! Must be some outage.”

“Yeah…” I agreed.

“We’re starting a game of pinochle. Need two more hands for six-handed. You guys want in? We found some more candles.” She held the door open.

“Ummm…”

“Oh yeah, John Wilson, I forgot… the water’s out too! How can that be?”

“Really?” I answered in faux surprise. “Wow, this is some outage. I don’t know.”

I glanced at Jack. He closed his eyes and shook his head gently. “Yeah, honey, we’ll be right in. Just give us a second.”

“Okay, sure,” she hesitated. “You guys okay?”

“Oh yeah,” I lied. “Fine.”

The door closed gently, and I walked over to Jack and offered my hand in a handshake. He looked at me. He looked at my hand and back at me.

“Let’s give them a few more hours, Jack, what do you say?”

He looked down.

“They’ll find out soon enough.”

He looked back up and reached out to my waiting hand and shook it.

“Might as well,” he agreed. “Might as well.”

On the way in I remembered how this would play out. Curiosity would lead to fear and anger and then disgust and then resignation and then desperation and then death. There would be a few, out away from the cities, who would make it. Relative to the masses, a few. Many had written on the progression of what would unfold. No fresh water, no groceries restocked on the quickly emptying shelves. No gasoline. No cars made after sometime in the 1970’s – the debate over exactly what year would now be settled – to run on the gasoline no longer available. No renewed prescriptions. After a few days, no police or fire protection. That’s when the chaos would start full-throttle. When the feral masses in the cities ran out of water and food, and ran out of places to steal it from. When no one around had anything to steal. When the migrations out into the countryside started. The violence.

John Wilson had no place – no relatives, no friends – out in the country to help him. Even if he did, it was too far to walk. His house lay precisely nine miles from the heart of the city. People everywhere. Thirsty, hungry, angry people. Even a martial force would not control a million such people.

He closed the door behind him and headed into the card game. He hesitated. Reaching back, he locked the door. For no reason.

Think of this… since the dawn of human history… Biblically, that’s roughly 6,000 years? – Since that time, electricity has only been harnessed for somewhat over 100 of those years. About 1/60th of human history. Yet cripple it now, take it away, and most of our civilization would crumble within weeks. The civilized, the tame, the finer things, the finer people… all would become feral. The important details of today, appointments, political arguments, what movie to see… no one would care any longer.

Perhaps, worst of all, no computers. No johnwilsonbach.com. Come to think of it, why are you reading this? Is there not something better to do with your time?

Tempus fugit.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Border Cure

This whole southern border thing is out of control… that’s my expert analysis. Story after story of women and children – some children unaccompanied – pouring over the border by the thousands. There is no place to house them, so they end up getting transported (for free I imagine) to various cities around the U.S. It’s causing quite a stir.

Typical liberal response is that this country has always been the place where the tired and poor, the huddled masses, can aggregate, and in the freedoms we offer find new spark, become citizens, and melt into the big ol’ pot with the rest of us. It’s a wonderful ideal.

Some of our newest would-be citizens aren’t women or children at all, but are hardened thugs, sporting their tattoos freely, immediately getting into criminal mischief. Imagine that… illegals flaunting our laws! Reminds me of mass shooters who are actually willing to break our gun laws!

Now, I am no prognosticator of socio-eco-geopolical-enviro-pseudo-Latino trends, but I imagine that if the flood keeps coming, unabated, we are going to have to raise the minimum wage way higher than it is now so that we can lift these folks out of poverty.

Please understand, I do have compassion for these people – at least the women and children and upstanding men among them. Had I been born into destitute conditions down south, I too would be heading for the border. I wouldn’t send my five year old child unattended, but I imagine I would probably do what I needed to find a better life for my kith and kin.

For these people, I do not have the answer. John Wilson Bach is only so smart. If we let every poor person in, no questions asked, the U.S will just turn into another Third World country. At the same time we do have a moral obligation to help the needy. How do we help them?

As I said. I don’t know. Please email me with your suggestions. What I do know is that current policy isn’t working. What I do know is that this is happening as a direct result of poor policy from Washington.

If a politician says we cannot control our border, I do not believe him. I would instead propose an experiment. An experiment that I believe would be short-lived. Let’s have every illegal – man, woman, and child – board buses and be taken directly to Washington, D.C. Let’s unload said buses at the foot of Capitol Hill. I think before long, maybe in just a few hours, the border would somehow be secured. Almost as if by magic.

It’s kind of like judges who let criminals out on parole because they don’t have to live near them. I think a judge who lets a criminal out early should have to live next door to that criminal. Now, I know that’s not realistic, but you get my point. If thousands upon thousands of destitute women and children, and thugs, crowded the thoroughfares of our government’s home turf, lawmakers could quickly come to consensus to stop the madness.

I bet old Harry Reid – who said, “we are all the better for having hardworking new immigrants as contributing members of our communities… shopping as customers in our stores, paying taxes, and giving to local churches and charities,”   – why, he might even find a spot in his heart to take some of them into his house for a few nights. Even some RINO’s who serve no purpose other than getting reelected could put a few folks up for a night or two.

Were this experiment to take place, I picture a wall, thick and strong and 50 stories tall and tightly wrapped in concertina wire, suddenly arising in the desert from the Pacific Coast of California to the Gulf Coast of Texas. It would be a marvel how quickly that wall would appear. I can picture it. Of course, I can also picture law-abiding citizens living in peace and harmony and a Constitutionally-minded conservative occupying the White House. I can also picture… Alas, one can dream.

Nancy Pelosi, she of impeccable integrity, recently said, ““I wish I could take all those children home with me.”

I think that should be arranged.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments