Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dave's Hill Story

There it is. My city. The humble skyline, such as it is, of its business district, such as it is. The sleepy streetlights that don't illuminate all that much action -- this isn't Chicago, or even Cleveland. The steeples -- United Methodist, First Presbyterian, the Missionary Baptist on the west side next to Uncle Fran's BBQ. Ribs were top-notch, but Fran's brisket truly was to die for ... if you pardon the expression. Focus focus focus. Immediately below, at hill's bottom, the bypass. The truest route to elsewhere. Second-truest.

Heh. There's old Van Buren, where I didn't learn algebra or Earth science. Learned plenty about Darwinism, though, which is what middle school's for: Only the strong survive, or at least pass on their genes. Yep, it's still got the old-school jungle-gym, the metal monstrosity that marks a real playground -- none of these lawyer-approved mazes of nets and chutes and ladders. Cold, hard metal. Heh. When Randy Larsch got the upper hand during that fight over -- over something, I guess, middle school fights don't need to be about anything -- and smashed my nose into the third rung three times in rapid succession, the important thing at the time was that it was hard. Now, the thing that stays with me is how cold it was. Must've been one of those November afternoons that precede the first snowfall but see it coming on the horizon. Gave as good as I got, though -- a few weeks later, it was his blood on the jungle-gym. Heh. Ended up becoming friends, sort of -- in fact, these days Randy's my CPA. Was.

There's the old A&P -- or there it would be, were a Wal-Mart Supercenter not feeding off its bones. Three years of wearing aprons and Mr. Kelly's store of spare striped woeful ties, weilding the cunning pricing gun and stocking the shelves -- the bane of stock clerks, if you've ever wondered: tiny cat food tins of the Fancy Feast variety, which never stack quite straight thanks to their pull top and always seem to fall over and tilt and look slovenly and occasionally roll down the aisle. Heh. Blizzard of eighty-eight, we closed up and waited out the storm, and tapped an Old Milwaukee keg from the dairy cooler. Kelly didn't say anything other than he didn't want to know -- then he'd send us out to the front end for some pretext of another and pour himself a healthy draught himself. A&P's to thank, or blame, for Amy the unbelievable redhead and that one unforgettable summer -- and that one unbearable autumn. She was running register, I was bagging. Heh. Hey, everyone -- double entendre. We spent our share of time up here -- well, okay, not right here at the bluff but back there where the woods begin, exploring whatever we'd care to explore. It was like that old Seger song about mysteries without any clues. Sometimes I think my whole adolescence was scored by Bob Seger. Everyone's adolescence was scored by Bob Seger. Still the same.

Yup, there's the channel-13 affiliate I interned at back in '91, after taking one broadcast class and figuring to give it a real-world whirl. (Didn't take.) And my favored comics shop, World of Krypton, where Mike kept the old Curt Swan Superman designs in the windows, even in periods where the market was all big-gun-toting, big-vest-with-way-too-many-pocket-wearing, big-we-scoff-at-basic-rules-of-human-anatomy characters. And there's Martinez's place -- mecca for hot pastrami and cigars and racing forms and five card stud (red queens tended to be wild, just like real life, but enough about Amy). and, when Marty was of a mood, free shots of bourbon. You could spend enough time in his place and forget that women even existed, if it weren't for the calendars from his brother Oscar's garage. And there's Pine Haven ...

Yep. Down there are thirty-some years of memories and twenty-some thousand souls. And twenty-some thousand bodies.

Plus one. Mine. In Pine Haven, as of ten-thirty this morning. Or elevenish, if you want to go by when they shoveled in the last of the dirt. My family was there. Randy was there. So were Mike and Martinez and his brother Oscar. I suppose Uncle Fran would've been there too, if I'd known him other than to order brisket -- I guess I always felt too dilletanishly white in that place to strike up a conversation. And I suppose Mr. Kelly would, too, but he'd been otherwise occupied in an urn on Mrs. Kelly's mantle three years now.

I make my way downhill, not all that gingerly. Like what, I'm gonna fall?

Twenty-some thousand souls.

I clench my fists of ether.

And one's a killer.

--Dave W., 3-8-07


Marcy L. Dewey said...

WOW Dave!!! Way to go!!! This was awesome! I didn't even see the deadness coming - I was all caught up in this guy's trip down memory lane that it didn't occur to me that he was dead. Nicely done!

And thanks for the Bob Seager earworm. (ratzafratzah!)

The No Talent Hacks said...

Dave - I had to put a headline on your Hill story so it wouldn't get lost - it looked like it blended into mine and yours was way much better so I thought differentiating them was a good thing.

:-) Marcy

Brihack said...

First of all, well done on length. You really went all the way and held my interest the whole time. The conversational tone of his thoughts drew me in repeatedly. You imply a great deal which piques my curiosity and the confirmation of his ghostliness at the end really packs a punch. More!