My Favorite Halloween

Uncle Rick’s Chrysler Imperial had fins like a rocket, and a push button transmission. My brother Joe, and I were riding in it trick or treat at my other uncle’s houses along Twin House Road south of Cottonwood, Idaho. It was 1969, and I was seven years old.

Rock chips splattered against the car’s wheel wells. It was dark, and all I could see through the windshield was a gravel road, and the edge of harvested wheat fields. A gray bird swooped through the headlights. I gasped. Felt my brother jerk, and the Chrysler slow down. “What was that?”

My uncle put his foot back on the gas pedal. “An owl. It’s probably hunting for mice in the fields.”

“Wow, it was big. I didn’t know owls got that large?”

“They get to be pretty good sized,” Uncle Rick answered, concentrating on the road.

I stared across the Camas Prairie at the scattered lights of farm houses. Looked up at the faint white smudge of a moon in the black overcast sky. I turned back to the windshield and noticed a small pinpoint of light. It was all by itself, and got brighter as we drew near. Jack-o’-lanterns.

There must have been at least eight of ‘em. They were arranged against the fence corner at the turn to my Uncle Johnny’s. The light of a burning candle flickering through each of their hollow eyes, and gap toothed grins.

I thought back to the owl that’d startled everyone in the car. The pinpoint of light, in the middle of nowhere. The glow of the Jack-o’-lantern’s dancing flames. This, I thought. This is the way Halloween was meant to be.

I’ve never forgotten that Halloween. Since that day I’ve experienced Halloween in the movies, on television and at Disneyland. None of them compare to that car ride, and the welcoming glow of my cousins hand carved, candlelit Jack-o’-lanterns, on that cold dark night. That was pure Halloween.

Carving a pumpkin at Halloween is as important to me as having a turkey at Thanksgiving, or a tree at Christmas. My childhood rushes back as soon as I pry the top off a freshly cut pumpkin. That smell, and the feel of the cool slimy seeds as you prepare the huge berry for carving. I plop it’s guts out on a newspaper, or into a bowl. Flicking my wrist to free its sticky entrails from my fingers.

Once most of the viscera is gone, I scrape. I use an ice cream scoop. One with a good sturdy handle. I tilt the pumpkin sideways and rotate it. Scraping and dumping until the last of the slimy strings are gone, and the inside of the pumpkin is clean and smooth.

Now the important part, the face. Triangle eyes and nose with a wide toothy grin, or round eyes and a mouth open in surprise? The options are endless. It’s up to you and your imagination. You could also use a pattern and make an intricate design. It’s your choice.

Candles have lost favor to battery powered lights or glow sticks. I’m a purist. Tea lights are the easiest candle to use. The kind in the little aluminum container. Store the candles in the freezer so they’ll burn longer. A stick of spaghetti works great for lighting them.

Let your candle burn about fifteen minutes, or so and remove the Jack-o’-lantern’s lid. There should be a black mark, or warm spot from the candle. Cut it out. Make a chimney for the heat of the flame to dissipate. You can enjoy your creation longer that way.

My favorite pumpkin story happened when I was in sixth grade. Buttery’s in the Lewiston Center had pumpkins for five cents a pound. My neighbor Mike , his brother Doug and my little brother Jack and I decided to walk down and buy one. Mike and I were probably ten, Doug eight and Jack seven.

We left right after school on a warm Indian Summer afternoon. It was a little over a mile to the store one way. Neither Jack, or I remember the walk down NezPerce Grade to the store. But we both remember the walk home. It was uphill all the way, and the pumpkins got pretty heavy. Jack was holding his like a suitcase by its stem. Then it broke. After that, all he could do was carry it in his arms.

NezPerce Grade used to have large concrete pillars with cables strung between them as guard rails. The cables were gone but Jack made it up that hill one pillar at a time. Setting his pumpkin on top of each for a few minutes before taking it in his arms and trudging to the next. Mike and Doug walked on ahead but I stayed back with Jack. It was a long walk home.

When I drive up that grade around Halloween I still see us carrying those pumpkins. A childhood journey completed almost fifty years ago, but still not finished in my memory. A lot has changed since then. Halloween has changed. Now there are stores that specialize in animated props, digital displays and costumes and decorations I could only dream of.

But then there’s that night. The night with the owl swooping through the headlights. The orange pinpoint of light ahead in the darkness. Jack-o’-lanterns stacked on the corner of a quiet country road. Candlelight flickering through their child imagined faces. Technology can’t replace that. Nothing can, that’s the essence of Halloween.

The Dog with blue Eyes

A blue eyed dog

on a white tile floor

looks at a black conical hat

worn by witches

The hat of the witch is distorted

the picture slightly askew

how the dog with blue eyes really sees it

is the answer I have now for you

The witch’s hat wouldn’t be shiny

it’s purple and gold not so bright

the distortion would lose much of its luster

however a dog’s eyes excel in low light

To the dog none of this really matters

it’s instinct and smell are what’s keen

seeing mostly grays violet blues and light yellows

is visually all that it needs

Now we humans see a world full of color

our eyes very highly refined

we see hundreds of color variations

and can interpret them all with our mind

However we can’t all seem to live together

although a dog in a pack is at ease

each has their own place within it

but also when living among humans seems pleased

As a pet dogs are not always perfect

but a truer friend you’ll never meet

they may poop pee and get in the garbage

but are loyal don’t lie and can’t cheat

It’s how the dog with blue eyes thinks that’s different

not the colors or shades that it views

it seems to see the best that is in us

that’s the lesson all we humans can use

It was the conical hat

I was supposed to describe

but the dog’s blue eyes intrigued me

so to my muse’s desire I obliged

Born in the USA

I was born in a little town in Idaho. I’m a 3rd or 4th generation American depending what side of the family you look at. My mother’s people were from Austria, my father’s from Ireland, then Canada. Everyone on the North American continent is an immigrant unless you an indigenous person. My relatives just happened to get here before there were real stringent regulations.

My wife is a Naturalized Citizen. She came here on a Work Visa. She followed all the rules, got her green card, paid thousands of dollars and eventually became a US Citizen. I wish everyone could get to know someone who is a Naturalized Citizen. Maybe then all the malarkey about illegal aliens would finely be dealt with.

Right now we rely on illegal aliens to do our dirty work. They have no protection under our laws, are paid less than the going wage and are trapped in a world of silence. They can’t complain to anyone or they’re out of here. All of this is part of a “wink, wink” economy. Everyone knows it exists, but nobody admits it.

If the truth were told, representatives from our Federal Government would tell you I’m right. Their maids, pool cleaners and gardeners are probably not legal citizens and they’re well aware of it. They pay them less, and work them harder with no repercussions, unless they get caught.

We don’t need a wall. We need to overhaul out Immigration Laws and Agency so we let more hardworking, taxpaying people into our country. Until we do the illegal immigrant circus will never leave town, and the clowns in Washington DC will never quit honking their horns of divisiveness.

I’ve got mine, and that’s all I care about.

My wife doesn’t understand how come I get upset. What’s happening in the United States really bothers me. I don’t care if unemployment is low, and the stock market is high. They don’t matter, we are destroying our future. I’ll use the Republic of Nauru as an example.

*Nauru (pronounced NAH-roo) is the world’s smallest and most isolated republic. The island has an area of eight square miles, about a third the size of Manhattan, and it is so remote that the nearest island of any size is hundreds of miles away. But Nauru generates wealth that might make a few oil-rich potentates envious.

*Thanks in part to what was left behind by the sea birds that have sought refuge here over hundreds of thousands of years, this island’s 7,500 people are among the richest in the world, at least on paper, because of phosphate mines that bring in tens of millions of dollars a year.

*The phosphate, the product of fossilized bird guano and a primeval stew of marine microorganisms, is exported as fertilizer, most of it to Australia, Nauru’s former ruler.

*Inch for inch, Nauru is the most environmentally ravaged nation on earth. So much of the island has been devoured by strip-mining begun 90 years ago that Nauruans face the prospect that they may have to abandon their bleak, depleted home.

This is what we’re doing to ourselves. We’re being short sighted. We’re treating or allies badly. We’re treating our neighbors like they’re out to get us. We’re borrowing, and spending so much money we’re dooming our children and grandchildren to staggering deficits. We may make a few more dollars now. But we’re destroying ourselves doing it. Prosperity now, desolation and hopelessness later.

Nobody seems to care. That’s why I get upset.

*A Pacific Island Nation Is Stripped of Everything

By PHILIP SHENON

I’ll post them Anyway

I don’t think this is the right place for my stories. Facebook isn’t either. I get these ideas and I need to write them out. It all started when I got my first iPad. It’s my favorite way to write. I wrote two, over 400 page books using an iPad. If you’re interested in writing I’d try using one. Get Windows for iPad, it’ll make editing easier in the future.

Anyway, I’m proud of the short stories I write, but nobody much reads them. I think I’m going to collect them and put them in a book. I’ll write a few more too. Maybe someday when I’m dead and gone someone will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. That’s the worst think about writing. You can’t make anybody read what you wrote.

The Shadow Man

His life, or what passed for it had encompassed three tree covered acres of gravestones and monuments. He was the Watchman of the Night, the Guardian of the Dead. He hadn’t chosen the job, but it was his. They were good neighbors, the resting souls. Quiet, and didn’t ask questions.

How did he get there? He hadn’t been sure. According to any law written by God, or man, he should be in Hell. But he wasn’t. He was here at Redemption Park Cemetery. A restless spirit surrounded by hundreds resting in peace. It hadn’t always been this way, once there’d been Becky.

Was it a cruel trick of fate, or divine intervention, he wasn’t sure of which. Somehow he’d been interred in the same consecrated ground as she. The killer, and his victim, together forever. It was a sacrilege the ground couldn’t abide and it squeezed him from his grave like pus from a boil. Dooming him to wander the stone walled enclosure, unwelcome but unable to leave.

Redemption Park was old. It was surrounded by a city. Most of its plots taken, most of its inhabitants forgotten. But not Becky, her grave was tended. It was the girl who did it. The girl who wore black. She would sit next to Becky’s ornate stone and write in her notebook, or draw on her sketch pad and smoke. She spoke to Becky like she was alive. Always leaving one perfect red rose. Maybe that’s why Becky’s spirit was free when all the others were encumbered. Maybe it was the girl who made her real?

He was nothing but a shadow. A thin gray outline of what was once a human being. While Becky, well Becky was as she’d been in life. Brown haired and fair. A perfect little girl of seven. He’d watch her play with the animals that emerged at sunset. Deer, rabbits and even the fox were her playmates. The cemetery their sanctuary, their protectors the dead. Unafraid and comfortable with her inhuman touch.

He was jealous of her. Jealous of her laughter. Jealous of how real she was. But tormented too. She was the reminder of what he’d done, and he the reason she was there. It had taken years before he could watch her. More years until he asked why. Why was she here? He was a killer, he deserved Hell. But she, she was an innocent child. Surely, she could move on.

It was the girl in black who settled the question. Not that she tried to, or even knew that there was one. It was her actions, her desperation that provided the answer, and Becky’s crying that held the key. He’d only heard it once before, the night he’d raped her. The night he strangled her to death.

He raced to the sound and found Becky kneeling over her. She lying still upon the young girl’s grave. The girl in black. The girl who spoke to her. The girl who kept Becky real. He was just a shadow. A shadow of a man. But there was enough, just barely enough of a man to recognize the writing on the girl’s notebook, and the label on the pills.

He rushed to the girls side and felt the closeness of death. Becky screamed, recoiling in terror at his ghostly appearance. His world suddenly went silent. He couldn’t bare it. The girl in black was Becky’s only hope for staying real. Once she was gone Becky would fade. It would be as if he’d condemned her to the grave for a second time.

“No,” he screamed to the silent stones and mute trees. “No,” to the stars and the moon and the sky. “No,” to the only being that was listening. It wasn’t a prayer, just a word. But somewhere in the vastness of space, and the infinity of time, Someone had been expecting it.

He was a shadow. Then he was a man. He picked up the silent girl from Becky’s grave. Outside the cemetery walls a city lived. Outside there was help. Outside there was hope. The ornate gate that had barred his escape opened before him, and the world of the living surrounded him. It wasn’t chance. He knew that now. It couldn’t have been. Help was too close. A hospital just across the street. He placed the girl by the Emergency Room door.

He was just a shadow, the shadow of a man perched on a vine covered stone on a neglected grave. A forgotten grave in a little visited section of Redemption Park Cemetery. Her appearance took him by surprise. She’d never come this way before. Becky had always stayed away. Now she was here.

“I can never forget what you did,” she said, in a voice much older than her years. “But that girl in black was my family. My great niece. The only one who visited me.” Becky looked at the man who’d saved her. The man made of shadow. “I can never forget what you did, but I can forgive you.”

I looked at the girl I’d killed, and fell to my knees. Unable to weep. Unworthy of her gift. Becky transfigured into a bright light. “The gate is open,” her last words…and was gone.

I am the Watchman of the Night, the Guardian of the Dead. I am the Shadow Man. I have been redeemed. I have been freed from my Hell. I have been forgiven of my sin.

Because I have Too

Why bother putting your thoughts into words when nobody reads them? I’m not special. I don’t have any magical insight into life. But I know one thing. Life is rich, and life is full of life.

As I was watering the container plants this morning I noticed a small black beetle walking across the concrete driveway. It scurried out in the open in what to us would have been an area larger than a dozen football fields. Noticeably alive as it moved on the flat gray surface.

This is the only place in the universe this could happen. No other planet has anything living that we know. Yet here we have life on life. We have so much life we call them pests and kill them by the millions. A minuscule insect, or rodent that on any other planet would be heralded as a miracle, here we destroy with impunity.

Life is more than breathing and procreation. At least for we humans. Life is our chance to live. To grow, create beauty, search for truth and love. It’s also fleeting. Bordered on each end by inability, and only cherished when its time grows short. But why bother? A dog has a more grounded feeling for life than we do. It does what it does. What a dog always does. We drift around like a ship lost at sea. Though we’re the only creature that can actually steer our own course.