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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Life As A Progressive

Originally posted on johnwilsonbach:

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Day One: Something terrible happened. I awoke from a long slumber to discover that every conservative and libertarian had left the planet. Somehow I had been overlooked. I had been forgotten. This was a most horrible thing. Progressives were in control; they had gotten their way and transformed the world into what they had been pining for all along.

First thing I noticed was no sweet aroma from fried bacon wafting from the kitchen. It was wrong to have our fellow creatures, the pigs, give up their lives for our selfish appetites. I walked into the kitchen and the only thing available for me to eat was a small earthenware bowl half full of some sort of herbs. There was a label on the bowl that said, “Picked fresh this morning by a white person of European descent, preferably northern European descent. They’re the bad guys.”

I looked closer… “Also…

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Ghost In The Old Schoolhouse

johnwilsonbach:

Hey, read this!!

Originally posted on johnwilsonbach:

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My Dear Grandson,

I hope this letter finds you well. Just for kicks this morning, I tried to call your mother. I had to call collect ‘cause the nurses don’t let me keep none of my own money. Some of the other patients sneak around with change and such. Some even keep some of the soft money stuffed in pockets and other places, but I decided to do what I’m told.

Anyway, I heard your mother’s sweet voice. I listened hard. The operator asked her if she would accept my call, but she said no. Someday you’ll understand. I did listen hard, though, to try and hear you coo or babble or something. But I didn’t hear nothing but your mama’s sweet voice, telling me no.

So, I’ll settle for yet another letter. I got to thinking about you just being a baby, but how, before long, you’ll be going…

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Not The Favorite…

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Looking For Luck

A novel about a young man seeking to make an old man answer.

By John Bach

It was an early fall day, about the middle of the afternoon. The sun was still a ways up in the sky, and there was a lot of daylight left. The sky was a brilliant blue, the likes of which typical fall days produce in the Midwest. The corn, strict rows of golden sentries telling in their browning and dying of the coming harvest, stood tall in the surrounding fields. It was a little town by the name of Loomis, in south central Nebraska.

In the local café, many men sat idly together in small groups, he-gossips, pitching their stories of broken machinery and lazy hired men, and the coming bounty of the crop. Their ball caps, worn and dirty with blackened smudges from being grabbed countless times by grease and work-smudged hands. Strong, weathered hands, some now holding cups of half drained coffee. The men talked freely. By early evening, the café would be empty again, waiting for the same collection of fellows the following morning. If a stray visitor to town happened into the café for a bite in the evening, he might wonder to himself how the place stayed in business. Little would he know of the throngs pulsing through, mornings and evenings, spending the lucre from the land. Corn prices were good. Bean prices too. Money was to be made.

Across the wide and uncluttered road and a couple of blocks down sat the nursing home. It was not loud this time of day, or any time of day, even though the old women and few remaining old men were hungry and unsettled. The remains of Loomis of old, tailings of time. Some of the old women wondered where their old men were, forgetting that their men and their own days of visiting in the café across the road had long expired. The few old men, rare widowers, their strength gone and their hands grown crooked and calluses softened, these men sat silently in stuffed upholstered chairs. This, the last stop on their route across the earth. Indeed, one could be born on the East end of town in the Paul F. Harr Memorial Hospital, spend one’s early years in the Loomis schoolhouse, move on over at maturity to the café, and then finish the course at the Thela Fieldstone Memorial Rest Home, all without leaving town, if one were so inclined.

These remaining elders had been born well before either Paul Harr or Thela Fieldstone worked into their respective bequeathments. Many of them were now alone in mind as well as body, having forgotten their families, as their families had forgotten them. Few disjointed memories of bright afternoons in the café or town shops remained.

 

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