Hello, my friend. I have a tale for you. It’s an old Indian tale told to me by my grandfather, who was in fact, an old Indian. This tale I’ll share with you, just as he did with me, and just as his grandfather did with him, and so on and so on, as far back as anyone can remember. The story I’ll tell you is our story, the story of how we came to be.
First, came the coyote … well, no, not really, I’m just kidding about that. This story isn’t about the origins of my tribe, it’s … Huh? Which tribe? It doesn’t matter which tribe I am from friend, this is our story, the story of humanity. It’s the story of how we came to be as we are now, and it belongs to all of us. So, here we go. This, is the history of your ancestors.
In the beginning there was Gary. Gary was a Yaqui Indian. Well, actually his father was Yaqui and his mother was Irish. Somewhere in the Midwest, in the year of 1961, Gary was born to them in the back of an old school bus, a school bus bound for a carnival. They were all in an old bus because that is what they lived in, and they were bound for a carnival because that is what they did. They were carnies.
They traveled the country with a few scraps of wood and brightly painted sheets of canvas, they also carried with them milk bottles and baseballs. When all of those things
were assembled together, they served as a booth from which was run a simple game of chance. For only a dime, a player would receive three chances to knock over a stack of milk bottles with a baseball and win a prize. Maybe a dime doesn’t sound like much, but they add up if you can get enough of them, and Gary’s father did a good job bringing them in. In fact, it was a task he was uniquely well suited for.
The Yaqui was a showman beyond all showmen and was possessed of an exceptionally keen mind. His real game wasn’t as much milk bottles and baseballs, as it was people. He had this amazing ability to size people up at first glance and knew exactly what to say to them, so that they, along with their dimes, would march right up to his booth in a steady stream.
Every evening he would spontaneously create a show, conscripting his actors from the ranks of casual passers-by without them ever knowing they had been called into service. In a voice that resonated through the crowd, even over the noise that was around them, he would single people out to build his cast. He might ruffle the feathers of a cocky young man by addressing the pretty girl he was with. He might compliment a group of young boys on their apparent strength, or question that of older men, and once he had a person’s attention, he held it with ease, as one would generally be struck dumb when they focused their eyes on him.
Gary’s father wore his black hair long, his face was well weathered and of a dark complexion, as was the norm for the desert dwelling Yaqui people, and he was exceptionally tall. He stood six feet, five inches barefoot, to that he added cowboy boots and an old stovepipe hat, making him seem as a giant. To the boots were attached large silver spurs which jingled when he walked, and from his hat sprouted the tail feathers of some great bird, which he claimed dwelled on the harrowing cliffs of South America, cliffs he also claimed to have scaled himself to obtain the feathers. He wore the costume of a gambler from the old west, black pants and a black vest over a white long sleeve shirt. His costume strayed a bit from the authentic though, in that rather than a pair of six-shooters at his belt, he wore a tomahawk, a big knife, and what he declared to be the scalps of his enemies.
Yes, my friend, he was a sight to behold, and in their awe-struck amazement, his marks were coaxed to the booth to take their roles. He was flamboyant, and with the exaggerated expression and movement of a skilled actor, he would run his show for an ever-gathering crowd. With a constant oratory excitedly remarking on the ongoing games, interspersed with tales of his purported adventures around the world, he kept his audience entertained and in suspense.
His booth was open on three sides and he ran three games at once to keep the show at a fast pace. The rules of the game were simple, three tries for a dime, knock over the milk bottles with the baseball, and win a small prize. All of the prizes were arranged on the back wall of the booth, and most of them were just trinkets, cap guns, cheap pocket knives, and tiny stuffed animals, things of that nature, but also on display there were a few larger, more coveted prizes. If a person could win three of the smaller prizes, they could trade them in for one of the larger prizes, maybe a BB gun, a big stuffed animal, or a bullwhip!
With a player’s first throw the bottles might wobble some, but none would fall, and Gary’s father would lead the audience in a bit of light-hearted teasing. The player would then throw his next ball harder, and maybe a couple of bottles would fall, but not the whole stack. Gary’s father, and also the audience, would groan in sympathy at that. Then, the mark would throw his last ball for all he was worth, and the bottles would fly in every direction! He would have won, and the crowd would cheer!
With great pomp and ceremony, the mark would then be awarded the small prize of his choice and reminded, that were he to win only twice more, he could claim one of the larger prizes. The marks would almost always play on, and they may have made their second win, but very rarely a third. I think… maybe the games were rigged, but I don’t know. Anyway, the abilities Gary’s father possessed, particularly that of being able to judge another person’s character, with a mind towards their subsequent manipulation, was something Gary inherited from him to some degree, and that undoubtedly had an influence on how Gary’s life played out, but from what history tells us of his mother, I think her influence on Gary may have played a more significant role in shaping who he would become.
Gary’s mother was a uniquely free spirit, and as I had noted earlier, she was a woman of Irish descent, so one may naturally expect the long, flowing red locks worn to her waist and the pale skin so typical of the Irish, but she didn’t look like that. Her skin was nicely tanned, and she was a brunette with fine, straight hair, which fell well past her disproportionately large boobs. Sometimes she wore long dresses down to her ankles and went barefoot, and sometimes she wore army boots and fatigues with a simple white t-shirt, depended upon her mood. She often wore flowers in her hair.
When the show was set up in a town and they weren’t on the road, her days followed a general routine. She and her little family would wake sometime around mid-morning, they were not early risers as most of their business was conducted late into the evening, and they would then enjoy a leisurely breakfast together. At breakfast there would always be all sorts of things for them to talk about, they would discuss the nature of the crowd from the night before, and how well the game had done, there also might have been something out of the ordinary occur, such as a fight, or a ride which broke down for them to talk about. Sometimes they might share a little gossip about the other carnies, but always the breakfast talk would wind up the same way, with an outline of the day’s plans for Gary and his father.
Gary’s father might work on the bus, as it was both a house and a vehicle it required frequent maintenance, and Gary would sometimes help him, or at other times he might help one of the other carnies with something to earn a little pocket change. If he had nothing to do, he would go for long walks with his mother. Now remember, Gary’s mother was a free spirit, and as such, she did have a few quirks about her, one of them was that she smoked a little grass. So, before she and her son would embark on their journeys, she would roll herself a joint from the small stash she always kept, then she would put it in a tiny little leather bag that she carried with her, and making sure that she also had a book of matches, off they would go.
Sometimes they would be gone for hours, strolling through an environment which may have been rural or urban, depending upon where the show was set up at the time. Regardless of their surroundings though, the purpose for Gary’s mother always remained the same. The intent of her trips was not to merely kill time in casual exploration, but rather, they were in search of inspiration, for she was a poet.
She observed all that came into her view as she went along, flora and fauna, people and things, and eventually, she would come to a place she found interesting and relaxing, where she could rest, and collect her thoughts. It could be perhaps, a bench in a city park, or maybe somewhere along the banks of a little stream if in a rural area. During one of their excursions, they discovered a collection of old, rusting train engines in an abandoned rail yard. They waded through chest deep weeds to reach one of the engines, then climbed up into the cab together, and while Gary poked around inside, looking out the windows and playing with the various switches and buttons, his mother took a seat in the engineer’s chair to begin her ritual.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a ritual, there was no chanting, or burning of incense, or anything like that. She would just light her joint and take a few leisurely hits, and as the dope and all the things she had observed on her walk, met with her imagination in the playground of her mind, ideas began to form on what she might write about later. On that day, she was not so surprisingly, thinking about trains. She thought of how trains with their powerful engines climbed steep mountains, and how upon their great trestles they crossed broad canyons, she thought also of the dark tunnels they plunged through and of the sunlit prairies they streaked across. It was much like the human experience she mused, there were times of struggle and times of ease, and there were dark times and bright times. Then inspired by her own thoughts and eager to turn them into words, she gathered up her son and they began their trek home.
Under an awning secured to the side of the bus they would set out a couple of lawn chairs, then Gary’s mother would begin to write. She did not need solitude while she worked, and she would discuss with her son all the things they had seen on their walk. She shared with Gary her perspective on them and asked for his, all the while jotting down words and moving them around, choosing to keep the words that fit her thoughts best and crossing out those that didn’t.
For Gary’s mother, the words she arranged into poems were a necessary thing, for within her lived the essence of poetry and it could not be bound. She would surely have exploded if her words could not have given flight to her spirit. She would have withered and died, had her words not given her mind expression. Yes, dear friend, she was the embodiment of poetry and of herself she freely shared.
Now and then, she would read from her notebooks to an assemblage of her fellow carnies. Below a bare bulb which hung from the buses awning, they would set a tiny stage that the Yaqui had made for her. The stage was only a few feet square, and in a semi-circle around it, an audience of vagabonds would set up their lawn chairs to hear her read her words. She read while in the nude, as she felt baring her body was akin to baring her soul, and in that way, there would there be no barriers between her and her audience.
Some in the audience were artists and poets at heart and came to hear her words, others came to support her in her endeavors, and some, came to see her naked. Of the latter, they were very discreet, and careful to be as much ears as eyes. For the Yaqui wore the scalps of his enemies from his belt during his show, and nobody knew for sure whether they were real or not.
It was inevitable I suppose, that Gary would also become a poet. After all, he had known his mother’s poetry from his earliest memory. In fact, history tells us that framed and screwed to the sheet metal wall inside the bus was Gary’s first poem, written by him when he was about six years old. His mother loved it in its simplicity, it read merely;
She thought it very deep for one so young and was very proud of it, that’s why she framed it, and that’s why Gary’s father screwed it to the wall. They were a happy little group, living life in their own way and at their own pace. Change for them was afoot though, drastic change, and it would come in the form of a girl that Gary would meet.
It was in Gary’s seventeenth year that he met her. She was sitting away from the crowd on the running board of one of the carny trucks, and was dressed strangely, as if from a bygone era, wearing a modest knee length dress in pastel blue, with matching low-heeled shoes and a white sweater. Her hair was coifed in a style from the same era and framed a face whose skin was smooth, and of an ebony hue. Gary thought her appearance both intriguing and attractive, but he was also interested in what she was doing. She held a pencil and notepad in her hands, and for a while she would watch the activities of the carnival, then she would write for a while. Back and forth her eyes went, from the carnival to her notepad, for as long as Gary watched her.
Though he wanted to approach the young woman, he did not right away. Legend has it that as a young man Gary was a bit timid, and somewhat self-conscious about his appearance. He was tall like his father, and also like his father, he wore his hair long. His complexion ran more towards his mother’s side though, and he was exceedingly thin. This poem that he wrote at about that time in his life illustrates the image he had of himself.
Head and shoulders
Above the crowd
As a skeleton
Wrapped in skin
Pockets full of dimes
So away I don’t go
With the wind, wind
The pen and the notepad in the young woman’s hands, combined with her beauty, were attractants more powerful than Gary’s self-conscious reservations though, and so he went to her and introduced himself. His introduction she met with a response both polite and receptive, so Gary then asked her what it was that she was working on. He found that she had been crafting a fanciful poem, one having to do with her perception of carny life. Her choice of subject matter was of course, something Gary was familiar with, and he was more than happy to share his knowledge with her, just as she was happy to have a willing source of first-hand information. They had made a connection then, and before they knew it their conversation had spanned several hours. The time did come to say good-bye though, but not before they had agreed to meet again the next day.
The following day Gary waited beyond where the rides and games were set up, and beyond where the buses, trailers, and trucks were parked. He waited until almost mid-day, and then finally, he saw his friend coming from some distance away. He walked out to meet her and together they entered the carnival grounds, where Gary gave her a bit of a personal tour, even introducing her to some of his fellow carnies, before taking her to meet his parents.
They came upon the bus from the front, where Gary’s father was intently working on its engine. When Gary called his father’s attention to their guest, the Yaqui pulled his head out from under the hood and looked her up and down, then he emitted only a single guttural grunt and returned to his task. Gary explained to the young woman that she had received more from his father than most people did, and that it was a sign of approval. Next he took her to meet his mother, who sat in a lawn chair writing, under the awning at the side of the bus. Gary set out a couple of more lawn chairs for himself and his friend, then his mother and her talked for quite a while. When the conversation had run its course, Gary, along with his new friend, rose to leave, and his mother smiled pleasantly up at him, signifying that she too, thought well of his choice in a friend.
They then sought out the same old truck where they had met the day before and sat side by side on its running board. Their conversation centered on each other. She was very interested in hearing about Gary’s life as a carny, and he was just as interested to learn about her, about how she had spent her whole life in a single town. To each, the other’s life was fascinating, and their conversation flowed freely back and forth, but so intent were they on each other, that neither noticed the sun slipping below the horizon.
With the growing darkness the young woman realized that it was becoming late and stated that she must reluctantly leave for home. Gary had no desire to see her go, for even though their relationship had only spanned two days, he felt something special was forming between them. So, he offered to escort her home and she readily accepted, just as happy to extend their time together as he was.
Casually they strolled along a path made of concrete, one that took them through a neighborhood typical of America during the age that they lived. Large mature trees, with full green canopies, bordered their path on one side and separated them from the road. On their other side, there were smaller paths of concrete, or sometimes stone, branching off of the main path at regular intervals to cross neatly trimmed lawns, those paths were often lined with flowers or ornamental shrubs, and led to the steps of front porches incorporated into stately homes built of wood or brick.
The distance they had to walk was not too far, and soon they stopped in front of a home which was a just a bit larger, and more ornate than the others. In the moonlight they turned to face each other, and Gary took her hands in his. He made known his hopes that he might see her the next day, which would be the last day for the show to be in town. She assured him that she would be there, and in fact she’d be there early, so that they might spend the entire day together. They moved closer together, they looked deep into one another’s eyes, and… a great big black man stepped out onto the porch and called for his daughter to come inside.
Startled, the young woman pulled back from Gary, then she turned and scampered towards the house. She went up the steps, across the porch, and through the door her father held open, but not before she shot Gary a promising smile over her shoulder. Her father also shot him a look before he went inside, but there wasn’t anything pleasant in it. Gary stood alone a moment more on the sidewalk before starting back towards the carnival, but was unbothered by what had just occurred, his thoughts were full of seeing his new friend again the next day.
Inside the home she sat on the couch. Her eyes were fixed only upon her father’s shoes, as she did not have the courage to look anywhere else. For her father had just discovered the identity of her escort home, and he was angry. He paced back and forth, demanding of her an explanation as to how she could have betrayed him so. How could she, his own daughter, bring shame down upon him? She knew there were standards to be upheld. She knew he was an upstanding member of the community and someone people looked up to, he was a minister in the church, for gosh sakes! How could she possibly consort with a lowly carny?
In a weak attempt to justify Gary’s appeal, she informed her father that he was also a poet, and an American Indian. Her father looked as if she had hit him in the face with the flat of a shovel. He stopped pacing and just stood there with his mouth agape, his hands hanging at his sides with his palms turned out, as if in a desperate plea for enlightenment. Then totally ignoring her reference to Gary’s poetry, he beseeched the Lord to give him strength, as he waved his arms crazily and asked her how possibly could she think that mentioning Gary was also a heathen, who worshipped the sun, and animals, and God only knew whatever else, would help her case.
She was grasping at straws then to lend some validity to Gary’s existence, and as everybody knew the Irish were all devout Catholics, she told her father Gary was also half Irish. Again he was stunned, and then railed on about how could it possibly get any worse, she had brought home a boy who was not only a shiftless carny and a heathen, but a white man to boot! He frantically speculated on what people may think, and what they might say!
He began to regain his composure though, declaring that it wasn’t too late to fix the situation. He then outlined to his daughter what they would do. Until he decided otherwise, she would go nowhere except to school and to church, she also must immediately, and greatly, increase her activity in church functions. In that way anybody that may have seen her consorting with the carny boy, would know she was repentant for her foolishness, and sought guidance in God and the church. That would make ineffective any gossip that may be forthcoming and save their good name. There being no time like the present to set her back on the straight and narrow, and satisfied that he had things under control, he sent her to her room, reminding her to get on her knees and pray for forgiveness before turning in.
Gary awoke with the sun and dressed quickly, he then made his way past the trailers, busses, and trucks to a vantage point where he might see his friend approach. She had said her arrival would be early, and though he doubted it would be with the sunrise, he did hope. He had brought a pad and pen with him to pass the time, and so he scribbled down words and juggled them around and rather absent mindedly he wrote, until he stumbled upon inspiration and recorded his thoughts with this poem;
For my mind
To be thus deranged
Or two ago
There was nobody
I did need
Now I yearn
My brain doth burn
To see one
Who just before
Was no one
Twist of fate
Of the heart
And of the mind
Gary’s vigil came to naught, as she still hadn’t arrived by mid-morning. So somewhat dejectedly he returned to the bus. There he joined his parents at the breakfast table and listened with interest to the conversation already in progress. The discussion centered on wrapping up the show they were currently working and how they might prepare for the next. Gary’s father remarked that the show had opened to a rather small and disappointing crowd at its onset, and that the past evening’s crowd hadn’t been any better. Gary’s mother noted that they would have an exceptionally long drive to their next show.
In that light, the Yaqui proposed that if it weren’t a better crowd that evening, maybe they should pack up and head down the road early. His wife agreed, stating that she would forego her walk and ready the bus for the trip. Gary said he would help her, and when he was done with that, he would help his father pack up some of the milk bottles, baseballs, and prizes. They would leave just enough to run a single game. In that way, when it was time to go, the three of them could pack the rest quickly. Having deliberated over what their course of action should be, and having reached a decision as to what they would do, there was then silence around the breakfast table. They were each absorbed in their own thoughts, until Gary brought up what was weighing on his mind.
Gary recalled to his parent’s memory how he had introduced a young woman to them the day before, and he told them how he had walked her home that evening. He told them how he felt so good when they were together, that he yearned to be with her, and that he never before had felt towards another person as he did towards her. He also told them that he and the young woman had agreed to meet at the carnival again that morning and then spend the day together. She had told him that she would be there early, yet it was quickly approaching midday and still she hadn’t arrived, he told his parents that he was worried, worried that she wouldn’t show up at all.
Once again there was silence around the table, until Gary’s mother asked him to recount the walk home with his friend. Gary spoke in awe of his walk, of how he had never felt more alive, of how the moon, its light, and everything it shone down upon had seemed so new and vibrant. He spoke of how the time it took to walk to his friend’s home went by way too quickly, and before he knew it, they stood in front of it. He recounted how they had faced each other, holding each other’s hands and he thought they may kiss, but didn’t, and then he said no more.
His father’s face was impossible to read, but Gary knew he was carefully considering what he had just said. His mother was also contemplating her son’s words, and it was she who spoke first. She wanted to know the rest of the story, why hadn’t they kissed? How had they parted? Gary told his parents that they had been interrupted by his friend’s father calling her inside, but that he had thought nothing of it at the time, as his mind was full of anticipation for their next meeting. He then recalled though, the look her father had shot him, and that he could hear the man’s angry voice coming from inside the house when he had started back towards the carnival. He shared those remembrances with his parents, then once again fell silent.
It was a deep, low groan, one which was filled with meaning, that this time broke the silence. It had come from Gary’s father, and by its tone and inflection meant that he had summed up the words his son had spoken, and that he had reached a determination on his son’s situation. It also meant that he would soon speak his own words. When he did speak it was not much, an observation and a warning. He merely stated that Gary’s friend was trouble, and that his son should forget her. Then he rose and left the bus.
Gary’s mother agreed with his father, and she also rose from the table, beginning to make ready the bus for travel. She knew though, that her son was in pain, and to that pain she spoke. She told him in love as in life, there are hopes, desires, and dreams, though sometimes there are things that prevent an achievement of obtaining what we want. She told him it could only mean that for him, the time was not right, and to be patient, his life would follow its own course.
His mother’s words did little to ease Gary’s pain, but he did rise to help her, and as he put things where they needed to be for the trip, a thought began to formulate in his mind. By the time the bus had been made ready and he left to help his father, he was in somewhat of a better mood. He had made a decision and was happy with it, but then, another thought presented itself and gave him pause. He stopped on the way to his father’s game and sat upon the running board of the carny truck, the one that he and his friend had shared, and he wrote of what was on his mind.
Not of good
When he joined his father, they began to thin out and load their equipment without speaking, they had no need for words while they worked as it was a routine they knew very well. Once they had completed their task though, the Yaqui instructed his son to wait for him and then he left, but returned shortly with a couple of bottles of root beer and handed one to his son. They then sat side by side in silence, sipping their root beers, on a rail that formed part of their booth. After a while, his father asked Gary what was on his mind, and Gary told him. He would stay behind that night and go to see his friend. He didn’t plan beyond that, maybe he would stay in the little town and get a job, maybe he would convince her to leave with him and join up with the show. After a moment of thought, the Yaqui agreed with his son, that sometimes it was better not to plan too far ahead. He then told Gary to go and have his mother bring the bus around.
With the three of them working they packed quickly, and by nightfall there was nothing left but to say their goodbyes. Gary’s mother brought him some notepads that were still yet empty, and some pens. He put all of them into his knapsack. Gary’s father gave him two cans of beans and a sack of dimes, which he also put in his knapsack. They then stood at the open door to the bus, and Gary fished a folded piece of paper from his back pocket to hand to his mother. It was the poem he had written a bit earlier.
His parents read the poem together, then his father stepped in and hugged him so hard that Gary was shocked, and he fought hard to remain straight faced and dry eyed when his father stepped back from him, and placed his hands upon his shoulders a moment, then turned away and boarded the bus. Gary’s mother also hugged him goodbye, a bit softer than his father had, but with no less feeling, and after a long moment she too released him from her embrace, but held onto his hand as she stepped onto the bus. She then let their hands slide apart as the bus began to move, but remained standing in the doorway, her tear-filled eyes on her son until it turned off of the midway, and then the bus, with his parents aboard, was gone.
Gary suddenly realized the enormity of his decision, he was alone, his parents were gone. For a brief moment he felt the urge to run after them, but then the thought of being reunited with his friend calmed him, and so with anticipation for their meeting then on his mind, he swung his knapsack to his shoulders and set off for the young woman’s home.
On his approach to the house she resided in, it struck him that he had no plan to make contact with her. Her father would probably not have been receptive to his unscheduled visit, so a direct approach, such as knocking on the door, would not have been a good idea. He slowed his pace a bit, counting on the darkness of night to conceal him as he studied the house. On the side of the home facing him, light emanated from the first two windows nearest the sidewalk. Undoubtedly the living room, he thought. The next window was dark, and the next along that side was lit. In that window, Gary could see lacy, semi-transparent drapes of the type a young woman might have in her room, but he couldn’t be sure that the room was hers, or that she would be inside, without getting closer.
He left the sidewalk and cut across the lawn at an angle, reaching the side of the house near the darkened window. He had tried to see through the drapes as he had crossed the lawn, but they weren’t quite sheer enough, he would need to get even closer. With great stealth, he crept down the side of the building until he reached the window he thought might be hers. He knelt beneath the window, letting his knapsack slip from his shoulders and to the ground. Slowly he stood, until he could peer through a minute parting of the drapes at their center. There she was!
She sat across the room and with her back to him at a little white vanity desk, brushing her hair. Gary scratched on the window glass a bit, but she didn’t respond. He then tapped on the glass with his fingernail, but still he could not gain her attention. He fished a dime out of his pocket and used it to tap on the glass. His friend paused in the brushing of her hair and listened intently for the sound she thought she had heard. Again, Gary tapped the dime against the window. This time his friend heard it clearly and followed the sound of his tapping to the window. She cautiously moved close to the little gap between the drapes and looked through it to see him waiting anxiously outside.
She raised the window very slowly, praying it would make no sound. Only a few inches she raised it, just enough to let her voice through. Then in a shocked whisper, with a terrible look of apprehension marring her pretty face, she demanded to know of Gary why he had come to her home. It was not the reception Gary had expected, it unnerved him, and he hurriedly blurted out his cause, that they were meant to be together, and that he had come to fulfill what was destined to be. Her features softened somewhat as she heard that declaration of love from him, but she had not the chance to reply.
Gary didn’t hear him coming. He didn’t even know he was there until he felt a light tap on his shoulder. He turned in time to see the big black man’s fist flying towards him, a fraction of a second before it crashed into his face. The force of the blow knocked Gary flat on his back half a dozen feet from where he had stood. He was disoriented, and before he could regain his senses his friend’s father was upon him. The man kicked him all about the body, his hips, ribs, and shoulders. He protected his head with his arms.
It was a brutal physical assault, something he had never before experienced, and it was terrible, but the accompanying madness was worse, assaulting his mind in a way he couldn’t have imagined. The young woman’s father had carried on a screaming narrative as he beat Gary, heathen, thief in the night, low-born scum he screeched. The young woman, who had by then thrown the window fully open and was leaning out of it to her waist, added to the insanity of the situation as she alternated between pleas for her father to stop, and a gut-wrenching wail. It was too much for Gary, and he panicked. He managed to roll over and get to his hands and knees, then like a runner at the starting line, he pushed off and sprinted into the darkness.
Adrenaline and long legs carried him quite a distance very quickly, but pain soon made him slow to a walk and then stop to take stock of his injuries. His ribs hurt, and he thought one or two may be cracked, he also had a split lip and a bloody nose, but he summed up his injuries as minor, they would heal, and he would be physically okay. In his heart though was a terrible pain, a pain from wounds too fresh and too deep to consider when they may heal.
She had been all he had thought of the last few days. He had fantasized of their traveling from town to town together, of their long walks of discovery together, and of their writing together. All his thoughts of a future with her had vanished though, with the look he saw on her face when she found him standing outside her window. What hadn’t vanished was the love he had felt for her, but now it was a different thing. Only yesterday it filled him with a joy he had not before known, but today it caused a gnawing anguish of his soul. Today it was merely a ravaging longing to fulfill a desire that never could be. Today it was a nagging want which consumed him, today it was a thing once beautiful now turned ugly.
Morosely he trudged along the sidewalk, not caring that his direction took him further from the carnival grounds. If he had cared, he may have realized he had time to catch a ride with one of the other carnies, as most of them would be heading to the same show that his parents were. He could have put that night behind him and rejoined them, but he wasn’t thinking about his parents.
Remembrances of the young woman he had known for the past several days dominated his thoughts. Her visage, her voice, and her words played over and over in his mind as if a film on an endless loop. Interspersed on that loop playing within his mind were flashes of the young woman’s face that evening, shock, apprehension, and then terror were the expressions she wore in those random flashes, and so his memories gave him no pleasure, they were depressing pangs of loss for something he now realized, never truly existed anyway.
He had not yet known such a confusing and painful state of mind, it controlled him and carried him down the sidewalk. After a while, he came to a point where the road alongside the sidewalk widened a bit, and the residences gave way to commercial structures. It was what served as a business district for the little community, and typical of a small town, as the commercial buildings spanned only a couple of blocks. Most of the businesses were already closed for the evening, but there was one which remained open, and it was a liquor store.
Gary was not a drinker, but for some reason, the shiny bottles he could see through the window of the liquor store seemed to beckon to him, and in his tormented state of mind he decided to answer their call. Then it dawned on him that his face was probably still bloody and that the front of his shirt had his blood on it. He also suddenly realized he had left his knapsack behind when he had run from his friend’s house, so he didn’t have a clean shirt to change into.
Glancing around, he noticed a water spigot to the side of the building and went to it. There he cleaned up his face then stripped his shirt off, cleaning it up the best that he could before putting it back on. The sack of dimes his father had given him had been in the knapsack too, but fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Gary always carried some dimes in his pockets. He walked into the store and up to the counter. There he placed his dimes in a pile, stating he would like the biggest bottle of whiskey that they would buy. The clerk was a young woman only a few years his senior and did not ask Gary his age, she just wanted the young giant with the beat-up face and wet shirt to leave her store. Without bothering to count out the pile of dimes, she handed him a big bottle of their cheapest rotgut whiskey and he left.
He cracked open the bottle as soon as he was outside the store and took a big chug. The taste of it made him make a face of disgust, it was nasty. He thought it to taste like turpentine must, but he continued to take little sips from the bottle as he walked through the rest of the business district. When the whiskey began to have an effect on his mind, his spirits were at first lifted. He was a free man he thought, with the whole world before him, to hell with that little town and everybody in it. He would follow the road to wherever it took him and lead a life of adventure. He would sail the seven seas, or maybe walk the beams of a skyscraper being built in some big city somewhere, he might even become a rodeo cowboy.
As his thoughts thus entertained Gary, the commercial buildings gave way to residences again and he left the business district behind him. The whiskey was tasting better by then and his drinks became deeper and more frequent, but the fantasies of where he might go in the world and what he might do were wearing thin, and images of the ebony skinned young woman began to creep back into his mind. With her image returned his pain due to the love that he had known, a love that had been so very real to him, but had been unrequited, and so maybe it had not been real at all.
His all-consuming sadness returned and grew. He drank ever more often from the bottle and a vicious cycle began, the more he drank the sadder he became, the sadder he became the more he drank. The residences were becoming fewer and further between then, and where earlier there had been some purpose to his stride, now he slogged along as if walking in deep mud. He wished they had never come to that town, or that he had ever met the young woman, he lamented the unfairness of the world, and he wept. He wept as he walked past the last of the houses and into open country, he wept until then in a thoroughly drunken stupor, something beautiful caused him to stop.
The road ahead of him rose a bit then dropped off sharply into a broad valley. It was a very clear night and the sky was full of stars. To Gary it seemed as if the road would disappear, and that he would walk right off of the planet and into the stars. Maybe he had found a portal he mused, a portal to a beautiful new land full of beautiful people. His inebriated mind made it true, there were people who lived on stars who were made of love. There were people in the sky whose love shined through the darkness of his world. He wanted to join them, he wanted to live among the stars, where everybody knew love and freely shared of it. He could go there he thought, if he wanted enough to be there, the portal would open for him. All he had to do was prove he was a being of pure, unadulterated love and the star people would see him, they would open the portal for him, and he could step off of his world and into theirs, the star world of love.
He concentrated on freeing his mind of sadness, of remorse, of regret, and let the love he had known fill him. He spread his arms out from his sides a bit and walked slowly towards the stars, purging himself of all his thoughts as he went. He achieved what he sought, he felt nothing within himself but love, but nothing happened. No portal opened.
Again he tried, and… oops! He had stumbled over something on the road and cursed. He was doing something wrong, he was sure of it. He took another big slug of the whiskey and wondered, what more could he do so that the star people would notice him? He then recalled his mother reciting her poetry while nude, and how she felt baring the body was akin to baring the soul. That must be it, his clothing hid him from the star people! He set the bottle down at the edge of the road and hurriedly stripped himself of his clothes.
He picked up his bottle, and as there was still yet a little whiskey in the bottom of it, he chugged it down then tossed the bottle aside. He prepared himself, heart, mind, and soul, he became a pure being of nothing but love. He walked quite a distance and once again nothing happened. He was growing frustrated and stopped walking. As fate would have it, he had stopped near an old tree growing alongside the road. It was the only tree in quite some distance and Gary thought it to be a sign, maybe if he were closer to the stars, he thought.
He went to the tree and with only a bit of a jump, wrapped his arms around a broad, low branch. Pulling with his arms and pushing against the trunk with his feet, he was able to work himself into a position where he straddled the branch, facing the trunk. Placing his hands on the trunk to balance himself, he slowly stood. Then ever so carefully, he let go of the trunk with one hand and turned, so that his feet were perpendicular with the branch on which he stood. He then inched out on the branch as far as he could go while still being able to keep one hand on the trunk, and then, with his arms spread wide, he tilted his head back to gaze up at the heavens, and fell backwards out of the tree, landing flat on his back.
It seemed to Gary that every star in the sky now gazed down at him with compassion for his failure, but they were no more able to bridge the gap between them than he was. Then they started to spin, and Gary began to feel dizzy, and nauseous. He rolled to his side and all the whiskey he had drank, along with the rest of the contents of his stomach, spewed forth from his mouth. Again and again his stomach purged itself, until finally unconscious overtook him. Just as the blackness was to overtake him though, he seemed to hear a voice in his head, telling him that he wasn’t ready, that he did not yet know love.
That my friend, is how Gary ended the first day of his first foray into the outside world, beaten, heartbroken, and laying naked in a puddle of his own vomit.