Tales From Mephitis. Chapter 10: The Dark Night of the Soul

Updated on January 18, 2018

“We’re short today. You can work if you want to.” Anton told Frank over the phone at 6:40.

“Sure. I can be there by eight. Who’s off?”

“Byron got canned.”

“Too bad. I’ll be in.”

On Tuesday’s, the Milan Transfer Station was closed to the public. One man went to Genoa to bale all day, and the other two went to Florence to bale.

When Frank got in, Anton asked him to go help Tom Cassius bale cardboard. The other man from Milan had taken a ‘personal day’. This Tom was a lean, wolfish-looking fellow of around forty, with dark, weather-beaten skin, and the manner of speaking and standing that spoke of a late-era upstate ‘Freak’ of the early 80’s.

“What do you want to do, man? Poke or drive?” he laconically asked Frank after they introduced themselves.

“You choose. I’m easy.”

“How about driving and getting me out of the machine for awhile?”

“No problem.”

The “Poker’s” job was to stand on a platform built on top of the baler with a shovel and ‘poke’ or push the cardboard the driver drops into the hopper down into the baling chamber.

When a driver was working alone, he picked up small loads of cardboard to drop in each time, so as not to jam it up, because that meant getting out of the skidsteer and unjamming the hopper after every trip.

When you had a ‘Poker’, the driver could take somewhat larger ‘grabs’ out of the bunker. But that cardboard still had to fit in there, so grabs that were too big were a problem, and made the ‘Poker’ really work. He would wait till the ram was all the way back, then shut it off with the E-Stop button by his knee. That gave him time to poke that load on down. When it was pushed down into the baling chamber, he’d pull out the E-Stop and the baler would start up again.

While Frank was driving, Ray Dodgers arrived in his fancy new County Pick-up. He opened the overhead doors to the outside and Farina backed his tractor trailer on in. He had a roll-off full of cardboard and tin cans from the county nursing home.

Frank parked the skidsteer and walked over to help. Farina had raised the front end of the roll-off after opening the door and securing it. They had to reach into the lower, open end and pull on the cardboard to get it to start sliding out.

Anton came on down to talk to Ray about something. Frank waited till they had finished their terse discussion, then he walked up to Ray.

“Morning. I couldn’t help noticing I was not on the schedule for July...”

“My fault.” Ray interrupted sheepishly and grimaced apologetically. “Just a ‘Brain Fart’” he shrugged. “You’re here Friday’s and Saturdays all month.”

“I told you he forgot!” Anton crowed mockingly, laughing.

After Farina left, they now had a huge pile of cardboard to whittle down. By lunchtime they’d gotten most of it chewed up.

Now that he was making money again, he could afford cold-cuts for his sandwiches. He was savoring every mouthful of his hard Salami, Cheddar, and Mustard on a home-made hard roll, when Tom came in to get his lunch. Like most of these employees, it consisted of a big bottle of soda and a bag of chips.

“You know, about a month ago I killed a Deerfly in there...” Frank indicated the filthy bathroom. “And the thing is still laying there.”

“It’s a f**kin DUMPS, man!” Tom blurted out in a barking laugh, as if his expectations that the place get cleaned at least once in a while were completely absurd. Maybe they were.

After lunch, as Frank took some books out to his bike, he suddenly picked up a familiar resiny fragrance on the air: Someone was getting stoned. He glanced around, but saw no one.

Later, after Tom had run the garbage baler for Rod, he told Frank to get the skidsteer and scrape the floor.

“What do you mean ‘scrape the floor’?” This was a new one on him.

“With the skidsteer, man. I’ll shovel the crap out from under the strapper, then you come in with the blade down, and scrape up all the crap from the roll-off to here. Then ya push it up against the wall there, scoop up the shit, and dump it in the roll-off. Who wants ta wade through all this shit, man?”

He flagged Frank down when he saw how he was “scraping”.

Tip it, man.” Frank tipped the bucket down more. “Keep goin, man.” He tipped more. “More.”

Tired of incrementalism, he dropped the edge of that bucket down so much it lifted the front wheels of the skidsteer six inches off the ground.

That’s it, man. Now scrape.”

Raising a brimstone cloud of cement dust and garbage, he made a pass from the roll-off to the back end of the baler’s cavern, pushing the blade tight against the back wall, then rolling it upwards, scooping up a load of loose garbage.

Backing out, he noticed it did work; the floor where he scraped was cleaner. Live and learn. Now he had a better method of keeping that shithole clean when he was down there beyond the push broom and shovel.

He drove into the roll-off and raised the bucket and dumped the reeking, drippy mess on top of a bale already in there. He could hear the flies over the roar of the lift-truck.

Between customers later on, he found himself wondering about that scrap of paper he found while cutting books the last time he had worked.

It seemed strangely personal, as if addressed to him. As if it told him to trust that it would be okay. And it did turn out okay. Ray had just ‘forgotten’; he was going to keep on working. And what was more; it felt like the note was answering his concerns about not being on the schedule. It felt numinous; he felt those familiar prickles up and down his neck, and the sense that the universe was alive and caring. But that was absurd. There was no one out there.

But why was it that there were incidents like these; whether they were dreams, I Ching oracles, tarot readings, Biblical passages, horoscopes, that sometimes seems to indicate there is a communication from a “hidden realm”?

It’s not as simple as Francis Bacon thought when he dismissed the one percent of prophetic dreams by saying we just forget about the ninety nine percent which aren’t; because that ignores the one percent that are. Nor can it be coincidence; the odds would have to be astronomically absurd.

But the vexing issue was this: When we experience something, this ‘meaningful coincidence’, as a result of dreams, prayer, divination, whatever; why is it not constant, repeatable? The born-again Christian who had so strongly once felt love and guidance now senses nothing; no prayers are answered anymore, no one is there.

The follower of the I Ching, after having had remarkably prescient success with the oracle now finds it only spouts gibberish in response to queries.

Those who had once found guidance in their dreams suddenly finds the dreams meaningless, contradictory, or outright wrong in their predictions.

Is this what Karl Jaspers was getting at when he said you can never depend on understanding the “nameless powers”? That just when you think you can trust them to guide you, they seek to destroy you? What the hell is that? Maybe that’s why Descartes had to concede that there might be some diabolical power playing with him, leading his thinking.

The Dark Night of the Soul” is how some people refer to that sense of abandonment after the grace of an intimate contact. “La Noche Oscura del Alma” was written by St. John of the Cross in either 1578 or 1579, and was just one part of a longer poem that dealt with how to handle the painful truths one uncovers about oneself, the pitfalls and difficulties of delivering oneself from the ego, on the spiritual journey to union with God.

But that was not what Frank meant when he referred to his own Dark Night of the Soul. There was a problem of definitions here.

Most writers and theologians label it as a time when your life “train wrecks”, a time when everything seems to be going wrong. That wasn’t what he meant either.

The Protestants saw it as a test of faith, a trial sent by God, which he didn’t accept. Any ‘God’ that was so mean-spirited as that was no God he wanted anything to do with. That was not the way a Supreme Being acts as far as he was concerned.

The Buddhists called it “Falling into the Pit of the Void”; the painful crisis of seeing that the soul is an illusion, of the struggle to identify yourself not with the ego but the higher Self, the Divine: It occurs when you live through the death of the ego.

That wasn’t it either for him. In general, the Orient saw it as something to work through; quickly or slowly depending on the individual. Some have an ‘easy’ Darkness, while for others it is absolutely devastating. And most people don’t have any at all; have never even heard of it. That much he agreed with. It seemed to only strike those few who had first experienced ‘something’.

All seem to agree it is an inevitable part of the spiritual journey. The New Age gurus exhort you to see it as a gift in disguise, that it is a sure sign of a coming blessing. Frank didn’t buy that one either. He’d been waiting too long. He wasn’t going to waste any more time.

The Mystics of the “Perennial Philosophy”, as Leibnitz called it, define it as “a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope.

The Catholic theologians called it “Spiritual Dryness”; a sense of no one out there that creates shattering doubts. Mother Theresa suffered from it continuously from 1948 up to just about her death in 1997. The 19th century Carmelite Saint Therese of Lisieux also knew those black depths of doubts, as did the 17th century Benedictine Friar Augustine Baker.

That was more of what Frank meant: The sense of the withdrawal of some presence that happens after one has had the seemingly incontrovertible experience of contact with a Force of some kind. Then it’s suddenly gone, like a line had been disconnected. You’re left feeling abandoned.

Then the doubts of what you experienced set in, an existential barrenness, and the sense of having played the fool. It happens not only to saints and mystics.

“’The Great Disappointment’ it’s called, with good reason. And it happens all the time. Could it be that that first ‘message’ comes at a time of heightened stress or confusion? Does the ramped-up level of intensity of thought and emotion trigger something? Then later, when the wattage of intensity isn’t there anymore neither is the sense of contact; no more ‘messages’.

I don’t know; maybe why we keep trying to find some way to maintain contact with something is because of the same reason we all keep listening to the weather forecast, even though everyone knows it’s always going to be wrong: We all just want to know the future.

Or maybe we want to not be alone in the universe.”

It was the scent of cigar smoke that made him look up as he was assisting a lady. The old man in shorts somehow looked familiar. He was bald, tanned, with no brow ridges, his skin pulled tightly onto his skull and around his somewhat starting, glinting dark eyes, giving him a rodent-like air. He moved slowly and somewhat feebly, but not inconsonant with what Frank took for his age; in the eighties. When he heard him speak to his border collie curled up on the front seat, he had him: Ken Leanord.

“How you doing, Ken?”

He turned at Frank’s voice and looked quizzically up at him. Frank watched him running through his memory to try and place him.

“I’m Frank... Frank Novak.”

The old man’s face was a transparent play of expressions as it suddenly clicked who he was, and the associations began to flood back.

“My God! Frank! How you been? Is it really you? Christ! How long has it been? What have you been doing with yourself? What are you doing here?”

“I’m retired now too. I work here part-time to pick up some money.” Again, as he spoke, he hated himself. “You f**king LIAR! Vanity! Vanity! Vanity!”

They talked for a few minutes while he helped him sort his recyclables. Frank asked him if he still went up to his hunting camp anymore.

“No, not anymore. There’s no one to go with me anymore, my buddies are all dead, and the last time I went alone, I passed out. Kinda made me think.”

“Passed out?” Frank thought with a silent grin. “Riigghht. Probably too many ‘Manhattans.’”

“I realized that if something happened to me, my dog would have no one to take care of her. So, I stopped going. Hey! We gotta get together and catch up. When are you working?”

“Normally Fridays and Saturdays.”

“We gotta get together.”

After Ken left, Frank mused about him. He had been Frank’s foreman when he started in the Paper Mill, when he first came to this area back in the mid 70’s. They had hit it off quickly. They both loved the woods, and he became almost a surrogate father for him.

He had never had a relationship with his own father, for reasons Frank would only understand after remembering his childhood, and never got along with other males of that generation. With Ken though, he easily swapped stories and experiences. And Ken had never run into someone like Frank before, with so much under his belt at such a young age.

With a touch of poignancy, Frank remembered how he had gradually begun to see Ken’s limitations and foibles. Glaring among them was an unfulfilled sex life, as a result of which he succumbed to the middle-aged male’s delusion that the young women of the next generation were more sexually active than his wife ever was, or any women of his generation ever were.

To Frank’s eyes he began to appear foolish, and worse than that; childish. It started a process of falling away, one that he felt somewhat guilty over for a while. Since then he’d seen it happen to others, and come to realize that it is simply part of the process of growing to eventually separate yourself from a mentor. He didn’t think Ken ever learned that.

Later that afternoon, while walking past the softcover book Gaylord, he spotted something. “Oh, this is perfect.”

“Anton. Check this out...”

He held up a cheap paperback from the sixties with an artist’s ludicrous rendition of two “Hippie Chicks” looking like they were in heat. The blurb proclaimed that it exposed the truth about the “raw animal sex these young girls, maybe your daughter, are having: They can’t get enough!”

Every middle-aged generation of males thinks the younger generation’s girls are f**king everybody in sight, and they are green with envy at this supposed promiscuity...This little gem was published for my father’s generation, and his father’s generation thought the ‘Bobby Soxers’ were doing it in the street, like his father’s generation thought the ‘Flappers’ were taking on all comers.

Now they’re telling my children’s generation that their kids are giving head to whole classrooms during school hours...It’s so predictable it’d be hilarious, if it wasn’t so destructive.”

“So Hippies didn’t really practice ‘free love’?”

“No. No more, and no less than any other generation’s girls, and like every other generation’s males, we were trying desperately to get laid, so if it had been out there, we’d of found it. I’ll give you an example. Heard of ‘Woodstock’?”

“Of course. Great movie.”

“The news reports at that time made it sound like everyone there was having sex with everyone else, and there were naked girls everywhere. Two of my buddies from High School were there and heard on the car radio about all the rampant nudity and sex. But there was nothing happening that they could see. They went frantic, running all over Yasger’s farm looking for all these ‘fornicating-hippie-chicks’: Never saw even a bare female butt.”

“It was all media hype?”

“Bingo. And they’re still doing to males.”

Tom offered him a ride home, saying it was on his way anyway. Frank was getting tired of flats and walking, so he took him up on it. He tossed his bike in the back of Tom’s pick-up.

On the ride home, Tom began to talk. Frank let him go on. He was growing more curious about these people’s stories. Though Tom was more taciturn than the others, like everyone else he was more than willing to talk about himself as long as someone was interested.

“I been working here for fourteen years, man.” He said with bitter emphasis. “I was hoping to get fifteen in so’s I got vested before they closed us all down... but doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. It sucks, man.”

“What’ll you do if they do close them?”

“F**ked if I know, man. Can’t f**kin stay here, there’s no f**kin work.”

“You can let me off here.”

“You sure, man?”

“Yeah, it’s only a mile from here. Hey, thanks for the lift.”

“No problem, man, anytime.”

He pulled his bike out of the back, noticing for the first time the scrap metal there. He gave Tom the all-clear sign, and waited while he pulled away.

Frank glanced up the long hill in front of him and got on the saddle. That’s when he saw he had another flat.

“’The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’, huh?” He hoisted up his jeans over his hips further and began walking. “The Stoics had it right. This is either not understandable or its all chance. Best thing to do is ignore what you can’t do anything about, just keep on keeping on... Ataraxia, huh? Start walking. One foot in front of the other.”

Animal. They oughta just shoot him, that’s what I say... Ya know what I mean? Just shoot him.”

“Tim from Genoa” had asked Frank what he was reading when he saw it wasn’t the sports page.

He had stopped for a minute and picked up a recent newspaper from the tray. The headline had caught him: “Man Arraigned in Death Of 2-Year-Old”.

Some twenty-seven-year-old from Wings Falls had beaten the boy to death. His girlfriend, the boy’s mother, was charged with abuse and neglect. That was the third local case of horrendous child ‘abuse’ he’d seen just since he started here and reading the paper. One was two “men” raping a one-year old girl. The other was another case of a boyfriend beating his girlfriend’s child to death.

“My first wife was abused by her father.” Tim announced with a strange pride. “Yessir. She was from Valley Stream, ya know, on Long Island. He was some big shot with a drug company. Ya know what I mean? Bought her her own apartment when she was sixteen. Took her over there. Soon as the door closed he raped her. Yessir. And her brother did the same thing to his daughter. Yessir. Kill em all.”

He had moved closer; his eyes taking on that funny gleam, and he wore that loony grin that said he was about to take off.

“I caught her cheatin on me. Yessir. She figured I was at work, but I snuck back. She was in the sack with him. I waited till he was gone, then I went up them stairs two at a time, and caught her still in them dirty sheets. Yessir, I tell you, I let her have it with both hands. Then I twisted her arm back and said to her I said: ’Ya know what you’re gonna do? You’re gonna call up all ya friends right now...’ an I give her arm a good twist, ya see, just ta let her know who’s boss, ‘An you’re gonna tell them all what you did.’”. He pulled himself upright triumphantly.

“That’s too bad. I...”

“Yessir. I took her arm and twisted it right back and said to her I said...”

“Okay, hey, hang on Tim. There’s a car. I gotta go...”

“Yessir, I took her arm and twisted it right back and said to her I said...”

“Yeah, I heard...”

“I took her arm and I twisted it right back. I said to her I said...” He followed Frank closely, his eyes gleaming maniacally.

No matter where Frank went, no matter what he said to him, Tim kept repeating the story of his arm twisting and how her lawyer got the better of him, but how he got his revenge by stealing all her stuff. The only thing that stopped him was when he saw a young man throw aluminum cat food cans in with the tin cans.

“Hey! What you think you’re doin?! Them’s aluminum. You get over here and take them out. I ain’t straightening up your mess!”

Tim seemed to hate younger men that looked like they were educated, and he never missed an opportunity to try and bully them.

As he watched Tim hovering over the discomfited young man, making sure he separated his recyclables correctly, Frank wondered if it is mainly in the lower stratum of society that you find most of the adult children of abusers, not in the upper and middle strata. As if the abuse had destroyed their ability to blend with this world, be comfortable in it, and to succeed in conventional terms.

And to the best of my own, personal, knowledge, all the women I knew who had engaged in extramarital affairs were victims of sex abuse as children by their fathers or uncles. I wonder if that holds true.”

Later as he was helping a young woman with two little kids, a dried up, unremarkable looking man about his age pulled in.

An acquaintance of his had once remarked that about when he had turned sixty it was as if he had become invisible; no one looked at him anymore or paid him any attention; he was just a grey little old man now.

This fellow fit that bill; balding, no physique, pale glasses, and L.L. Bean’s most invisible clothes. Everything declared “This guy’s an accountant.”

But he kept looking at Frank.

Not ANOTHER gay. Jesus, what is this? ‘Hook-up Central’ for these guys?”

Before the woman he was currently helping, he had just finished dealing with another of Rod’s ‘friends’, the one he had dubbed “The Wiggler” to himself. How such a flamboyantly swishy gay could survive up here, he had no idea.

He had simpered up to Frank, wanting to know where the “Rod, that nice older gentleman who always was so helpful” was for the last two weeks. When he told him, Rod was on vacation and should be back soon, he thanked Frank and batted his eyes flirtatiously at him.

The “Wiggler” was the only one that Rod stood quietly and listened to. For up to fifteen minutes or more, he’d stand very close, sometimes reaching out to lightly touch Rod’s arm, talking earnestly and seductively to him.

“Excuse me. Are you Frank Novak?” he asked.

Ohhhh. Okay: Marked him. What was his name? Mattison, Tim Mattison.” “Yes, yes I am.”

“You probably don’t remember me...My wife and I, we bought our first house from you and your wife.”

“Of course. I remember. How are you, Tim? Mattison, right? How’s your wife, Alicia?”

“Uh…Right…I’m amazed. You have a very good memory. She’s fine. We’re still living there. It’s been thirty-one years.”

My memory is far better than you can imagine.” “Still like it?”

“Oh, yes!...You and your wife divorced, didn’t you?”

“Yes, and I’ve re-married. Got it right the second time.”

“Weren’t you an Artist?”

Still am. That doesn’t change just because you’re not making money at it anymore. I’m just another ‘Raphael without hands’ now.” Frank thought.

He saw no point in justifying himself or explaining that the “Post-Y2K-Dot-Com-Crash-Recession” had destroyed too much wealth.

It had been bad enough that he and Mel could not find a market for their best work, the highest price pieces, and had to resort to mid-range art. Like any artist they only wanted a chance to give their very best.

After each recession, more and more of their customer base dwindled. After Y2K they had a choice: Stay in business by pumping out five or ten-dollar items, or close it down. They closed it down and went into organic farming.

Frank measured him with his eyes, trying to gauge his intentions. He had already figured out how Mattison knew he was here. And, like Lillie and Sharon, the fellow was not familiar with the routine here. So: He either never or only very seldom came here.

“Yes... Bill Emery still next door?”

“Yes.” He looked surprised. “You do have a good memory! He mentioned you were working here now.”

Yeah. I’ll bet he did.”

Mattison was quiet for a moment.

“I guess I didn’t make such a bad choice with my life” He said quietly, looking at his feet. “I’m still an accountant with the same firm… I’m a partner now...But I guess a lot of people would envy me.”

He didn’t say it as though he himself did. He held out his hand.

“Well, it was nice running into you. Good luck.”

He pulled off his glove and shook Mattison’s hand. He felt it, soft, clammy, and weak, collapse under his grip.

“Nice seeing you again too.”

“I’m going to have to start charging admission to this zoo. Come see the ‘Mighty Fallen One’, ‘Mr. Master of His Fate’.

I never thought I had made much impression on people...But you know, this guy, this Walter Mitty, seems like he had always envied me my’ Bohemian’ life. Did he quietly, meekly, live a whole life of ‘quiet desperation’? Always wanting to be adventurous, but never daring? Feeling regrets all his life?

Then he hears about me, and suddenly feels better, like maybe he hadn’t wasted his life.

‘After all,’ he looked like he was saying to himself, ’I may have done the same dry, boring thing day in day out for thirty-five years, but at least I’m not reduced to working in a dumps.’

Well... ‘Glad I could help, pal... Don’t forget to drop a few coins in the box’...Of course there was some Schadenfreude in there: He came to see for himself, didn’t he? He wasn’t content to have just heard about it.

Did he want me to know in the end he succeeded and I failed?”

While walking the bike home after another flat about halfway home, he was pre-occupied with what seemed to be an epidemic; a pervasive plague of child abuse. Since he’d been working, he’d had the first real opportunity in about ten years to peruse newspapers and magazines thanks to what people were tossing out.

What struck him first was that Americans must have forgotten how to read, or never learned. All the magazines were a quarter the thickness he remembered, whether it was Time Magazine, National Geographic, or the science magazines. They all had great photos, but almost no text. But it was the frequency of child and sex abuse stories that stunned him.

He had no idea. He thought his own experiences as a boy were rare. What turns out to be rare was that he survived.

The papers carried the stories about children dying horribly. The newsmagazines focused more on ‘institutional’ sex abuse of children; like Sandusky and Penn State, the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish men, or the Catholic Priesthood.

Even among the workers at the dumps, he had heard about Byron’s abusive childhood, the abuse “Haji” had suffered, Tim’s ex-wife’s story, and even Anton had started to talk about his tyrannical mother and her psychological abuse of him. Then of course, there was he himself.

And he had picked a book out of a Gaylord, “Welcome To My Country”, by Lauren Slater, and brought it home. Melissa was reading it. The patients Ms. Slater wrote so compassionately about were all deemed too damaged to ever be made whole; most of them were horribly abused as children. Tragically, it turned out even she herself had been sexually abused by both of her parents.

“The ‘Greatest Generation’ my ass. They were a bunch of wife-beaters, kid-beaters, and baby-f**kers.

The only question is how badly did they infect that next generation; my generation? And how badly have we infected our kids? Is the only way to break the chain for one generation not to reproduce?

And is that f**cked-up generation unique? Has that level of abuse always been there? Or is it a product of a certain type of culture or society?

One thing’s for damn sure: the extent of the number of victims over time in a lot of these cases indicates the cooperation and involvement of many.

In Paul Pines’ book “My Brother's Madness”, his mother was obviously aware that the school he and his brother were going to was a den of pedophiles. And his father was part of a circle that procured ‘understanding’ women to be prop-wives for pedophiles.

Sandusky couldn’t have felt safe butt-f**king little boys in the shower-room without assurance that he was safe; that meant a conspiracy of at least silence. The Catholic Church has notoriously covered up their nests of pedophiles. The same thing goes for that school on the East Side of New York, and in the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community.

And what was done to me by my ‘parents’ was filmed; that means a production crew of sorts, distribution, and a ready audience for a snuff film.

Maybe when extended families of multiple generations all lived under the same roof, like in ‘traditional’ agricultural societies, there’d be too many eyes for such things to occur. But that’s speculation

This much is known however; when Freud began treating patients with hypnosis to recover their repressed memories he was shocked to uncover a huge cesspool of sexual abuse among the upper class Jewish community in Vienna.

His friend, Dr. Fliess, himself apparently a pedophile, suggested a way out: Merely say these were not actual memories, but repressed wishes instead. That way no one, except the patient, is offended. Then Freud had to invent his concept of ‘Resistance’ to explain why all his patients were so adamant these were not wishes.

One thing seems certain: The critical factor is not to let it get started in the first place. Once it begins, the damage is passed on to all the succeeding generations, in a sort of Lamarckian evolution of acquired traits.

And the self-awareness of one’s own damage from one’s parents always seems to come too late in life, if it EVER comes. By then you’ve had your own kids, and they are having theirs. Once the chain of abused children becoming damaged adults starts, it seems the only way to stop it is not is for one generation to just not have children.”

A car pulled up alongside him as he walked, and the occupant leaned over the passenger seat to look at him. He was about seventy, seventy-five; lean, with his white hair combed back like Elvis, his sleeves rolled up high on his thin arms as they did in the ‘50’s.

“What’s the matter, partner? Lost your wheels?” he asked amiably.

“It appears so.”

“Want a ride?”

“Thanks, but I couldn’t get this bike in your car. Appreciate the offer though.”

“Well, hang on there. I’ll just go get my pick-up.”

“I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

“No trouble at all. I live just about a mile back. I saw you walking past again, and I told the wife ‘I bet he could use a lift’. I’ll be right back.”

Frank was unsure whether he was being set up for a practical joke or not. He figured it was possible this guy might never come back, and he’d stand there like an ass waiting. But then again; he didn’t look the type, and rarely would people that age go out of their way to make trouble: It was just too much effort. So, he thanked him and told him he’d wait.

He had just about figured he had indeed been made a fool of, when the fellow returned with his truck.

“Names Terry Burns. Seventy years old, fit as a fiddle and twice as stringy.”

“Pleased to meet you. Appreciate the lift.”

“I’ll bet. Where you comin from?”

“Transfer Station. I work there part-time.”

“Where you live?”


Whhheeeewww.” Terry let out a long, low whistle. “That’s quite the ride. Or a walk. Hey, listen, anytime you need a ride, you just stop over. I’m the ranch next to the farm on the right back there near the wood mill.”

“Thanks. I hope I don’t, but I sure appreciate it.” They rode in silence for awhile except for the directions he gave him as needed. Frank noticed a CD cover on the seat.

“You a singer?”

“Country and Western” He cocked his head a little in cowboy-style modesty. “I’ve cut a couple of CDs. Always kept my hand in, and I’ve got more time now that I’m retired. That is...when I’m not mowing. I’ve got ten acres of lawn. Keeps me pretty busy.”

“I’ll bet...It’s up here, just past those trees at the top of the hill...Here we go. Hey, thanks again. I mean it.”

“My pleasure. Nice to meet you.”

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