Trains wailed into the night…

Trains wailed into the night…freight trains carryin’ goods throughout the country…some empty cars…the old man stood by the tracks watchin’ as it went by slowly…then picked up speed and then slow again…he was waitin’ for the right opportunity…

All his life he wanted to jump a train…head out into the dark not knowin’ where he was goin’…never sure where he’d wind up…could be the southside of Chicago over by Canaryville where Sandburg told of the old stockyards playin’ host to cattle and pigs comin’ in for slaughter each day….

Maybe out West in San Francisco where Kerouac recited poetry at all hours of night…highly fueled on alcohol and bennies…gettin’ his kicks on jazz played by old black men in bars boppin’ it up while the crowd yells yeah…yeah…yeah…

Could be he’d go down South to the land of Dixie followin’ that ghost of Faulkner into Mississippi with tall oaks and dogwoods coverin’ old dirt roads traveled on day after day… men haulin’ cotton to be processed at the local gin while their women are at home stirrin’ up mysteries for children to live off of for generations to come…

Then there’s New England…dear old New England with words carved out by Melville…travelin’ up and down I95 with Queequeg on lookout as the train slides into New York with traces of Whitman’s words dancin’ from the lips of poets both young and old…callin’ out, I Sing The Body Electric…

But Brooklyn’s not Brooklyn anymore and the prophet Miller has long since gone on to the next life…He danced his way onto the streets with twelve wise men followin’ his every step…a jitterbug…muskrat ramble…the Charleston…a dime a dance…”Once you’ve given up the ghost everything follows with dead certainty…”

Trains wailed into the night…freight trains carryin’ goods throughout the country…some empty cars…the old man stood by the tracks watchin’ as it went by slowly…then picked up speed and then slow again…He was waitin’ on the right opportunity…

snow storm…

There was a silence that night…an unusual quiet…no dogs barkin’…or guns goin’ off…wasn’t any cars draggin’ mufflers down Creighton Avenue…not even a siren from an ambulance…there was nothin’…

And he sat up in his room lookin’ at banks of frozen snow piled up along alleys…parkin’ lots…streets…it glowed under moonlight…

He wondered what his next move would be…stick out winter in the Midwest…go back East…maybe head down to sunny Florida…Vegas…he’d never been to Vegas…thinkin’ ’bout that desert climate…some place warm…

So he sat and looked at the snow in silence…liked to watch it come down…flakes fallin’…coverin’ the old Dodge up on concrete blocks…sidewalks…rooftops…just an all out quiet white…

Would he miss this…

Wasn’t sure…

Still Kickin’…

The old man would stare at the blank page for hours…next to him was a bottle of Jim Beam…thought ’bout taking a drink for inspiration…thought ’bout it…

He’d written almost everyday…short pieces…fiction based on facts…all good fiction always is…he’d take a knife to a vein and drain it until truth came out…it always hovered right below the skin…

And he sat there thinkin’ ’bout his life and how he got to where he was at…livin’ in a rented sleepin’ room with a twenty to his name…watchin’ snow fall…thinkin’ back to when he was married and there was always plenty of loot to kick around…America’s funny that way…when you got scratch it’s a great place…if you don’t…you really get to know yourself…

He’d spent the last ten years gettin’ to know himself…livin’ under bridges…abandoned cars…sleepin’ in Wahington Square Park on cool green grass in the summertime…readin’ Hesse and Hughes…Hesse and Hughes…

Now he was old…and he welcomed death…wanted it all to be over and move onto the next round…whatever that might be…

You look at life from backward and forward perspectives…you think ’bout what you had and what is gone…consumed with this thought…

It never turns out how you think it will…

Calhoun Street…

He walked ‘cross town…past the old Rialto movie theater on a sidewalk littered with candy wrappers…condom packages…cigarette butts…broken bottles…went by old antique stores with various items in the windows…dressers…desks…wooden tables…ancient typewriters…a painted picture of an old man praying over a loaf of bread…he always liked that one…

Cars passed on Calhoun…a lot of beaters…old automobiles with cracked mirrors…rust along bottoms…missing mufflers…stereos turned up loud with a booming bass…pick-up trucks with tailgates missin’…busted tail-lights with exposed bulbs…a license plate sayin’ DIXIE-1 on it…a blonde haired girl stickin’ her head out the window catchin’ a breeze…

The day labor place was just a few blocks down the street…men and women lined-up to get their pay after a long day at factories…collectin’ garbage…emptyin’ recyclables…tearin’ down cardboard boxes…strippin’ hot tiles off of roofs…sweepin’ floors…a day’s pay for a day’s work…

And he kept on walkin’ down Calhoun…used to be a whore house over there where he lost his virginity to some big black broad…she smacked gum the whole time…said she was honored to be his first…a hundred dollar bill left on a night stand…now the house was a day care place…things change…

A sadness came up inside of him as he continued steppin’ down the street…this was his town…the place he grew up in…he’d left it years ago to go out and wander ’round America…didn’t have to…America was always right here…

Promise land

He kept lookin’ at her in the rear view mirror…drivin’ down the highway in the early mornin’ hours…she was all stretched out in the back seat of a Dodge…had her thumb in her mouth…cowboy boots kicked off…head turned sideways…a ponytail over half a face…

The radio was turned down low…just barely loud enough to keep him awake…kept smokin’ cigarettes…an ashtray filled with filters…fingers burned in between…a thermos of coffee on the seat next to him…pitch black as they drove ‘cross Kansas into Colorado…two one hundred dollar bills in his wallet…all he had left…

And she twisted and turned askin’ him if they were there yet…,Hush baby doll…go back to sleep…we got miles to go…, lit another smoke and took a swig of joe…his eyes were turnin’ red…

They pulled into a rest area a few miles over the state line…turned the engine off and rolled down the windows to let the cool Spring air breeze through the car…leavin’ the sweet smell of night time behind as the mornin’ sun came up over ’em…he closed his eyes and fell into a dream…same dream he had every night…’bout her…the woman who had left ’em both when she was needed most…it was a world of hurt for him…the kid too…it was a bond that father and daughter kept…unspoken…their tears were gone after the night she left…pinky promises…

The dad woke up a couple of hours later…looked at his little girl who was now leanin’ ‘gainst the window…bitin’ her lip and waitin’ to get back on the road…,You been up long…,pop asked his princess…she nodded her blonde head and shrugged her shoulders…,We’ll get there soon…we’ll get there soon…, he started up the old beater and turned up the radio…some gospel station…people singin’ ’bout salvation…big trucks rollin’ by…she started countin’ ’em as they passed…lookin’ at the different state plates…ponytail blowin’ in the breeze…

She asked him hours later…,Dad…where we headin’ to…, he just looked at her in the mirror and said…, Promise land baby…we’re headin’ to the promise land…, she smiled…he gave out a laugh…lit another cigarette and kept on drivin’…

The end of the road…

There was no fear in these people…these two…they drove all ’round the country lookin’ for trouble to get into…holdin’ up gas stations…liquor stores…all night diners in small towns out on the interstate…said they had a gun…never showed it…

He was a big man…she was a little bitty thing…but…she had a big mouth and she knew how to get folks to do what she wanted…like hand over cash…also knew how to make the big man’s heart pitter patter…tick on at great speed…the heavy-weight was crazy ’bout her…,She makes me do things I wouldn’t normaly do…, he said…, Just somethin’ ’bout her makes me forget that we’re committin’ crimes…She just makes bein’ bad so easy…

And the little blonde with the blue eyes was always one step in front of the rest…she’d conned men her whole life with fits and flirtations…decided a long time ago she was gonna do things her way…make a livin’ outta bein’ an outlaw…the big man always followed her lead…so did every other man…

There were men before…all of ’em took the fall for her…said she’d never stepped a foot in the process…said robbin’ was their idea…she’d convinced ’em of this…had these men commit the crimes…they were the bulk…she was the brains…

Big man always wondered when they were gonna get caught…her…it never entered her mind…she thought this scorin’ would go on forever…and it almost did…

They’d blazed a trail throughout the South…Tennessee…Mississippi…Arkansas…then they made the mistake of messin’ with Texas…didn’t take much…the Rangers were ready for ’em…buisnesses put on notice…all points bulletins sayin be on the look out for a skinny blonde with a tattoo mark of a heart with the name Bobby traced in red on her left arm…Bobby was her only child…gave him up the day he was born…some preacher man and his wife took him…he was better off…

So…they stepped into the wrong gas staion one night in Texarkana…early mornin’ hours with the winds kickin’ up the smell of alfalfa ‘cross the highways…orange glowin’ cigarette butts bouncin’ down the roads…comin’ in like they always did…big man did all the talkin’ this time while Bobby’s momma stood look-out…man ‘hind the counter called him on his bluff…asked to see his gun…big man laughed…the attendent put a stop to the laughin’…shot him three times with a pistol kept under the register…you never seen so much blood…

Blondey didn’t know what to do…her streak was over…stood there with a gun pointed at her as cop cars rolled up with their sirens on and lights flashin’…

It was the end of the road…

one eye open…

She used to stay up all hours of night waitin’ on him to come home…sat there on the sofa with the television on and the sound way down low…pictures of people talkin’…movin’ their mouths…she’d watch old time movies…Spencer Tracy holdin’ Katharine Hepburn…makin’ her understand that he loved her…she longed for that kind of love…

And he’d finish second shift…headed straight to the bar with his crew…men with rings on fingers and contempt in their hearts…hatin’ the fact that somehow they got stuck…a slow seepin’ through to the bottom…tryin’ to keep their heads above the muck that everyday life brought them…wishin’ somebody’d reach out to save ’em…wishin’ they’d never taken those vows before man and God…the preacher never said it was gonna be easy…

They were kids when they made these choices…young kids that had just gotten outta high school and took jobs at factories…earnin’ paychecks by screwin’ bolts…it’s what their father did and their father before them did…get a job…get married…start a family…it was expected of ’em…they couldn’t say no…

There were those that left town…took off…joined the Corps and saw the world…fought in battles…sent letters home…did their duty and got out…only to come home again and face what they left…nuts and bolts…nuts and bolts…

At three o’clock in the mornin’ he’d come home…stumblin’ in the kitchen and placing a plate of food in the microwave…seated at the kitchen table with his head bobbin’ back and forth as he put bites of meat loaf into his mouth…television turned onto some infomercial…while she slept with one eye open…