A Winter Story “The Silver Sixpence” by Victoria Leigh Bennett

photo from pixabay.com (_Alicja_)

The Silver Sixpence

A Wit: “Why is it when people blow their noses, they always take a good look into the handkerchief? What are they expecting to find there, a silver sixpence?”

          It was winter again; I had a snotty-nosed cold that came and went and kept me from fully enjoying my time out-of-doors with my brother, called “wee Bob” by my Uncle Joe, the bon vivant of the family, even among us children.  It was the chilliest winter I could remember in all my ten years, which might not have been long, but I was an outdoor girl.  Yet I had some hesitations about being in the freezing, bitterly discontented wind, the pelting, hard snow, especially the wetting sleet.  Wee Bob just stared gloomily out at the weather from the living room couch back, shoved up against the windowsill where it was, as he was only five and was not allowed to go out without me.  I was the big sister, the guardian angel, the one who beat the stuffings out of the boys down the road if they picked on him.  Not that he was not known to slap a snowball at one of them from behind one of the huge drifts we had this year–strangely early for the end of November and December’s advent—to whiz a miraculously accurate bullet of snow for a five-year-old at a foe, then duck down and grin up at me. At that point, I stood up and posed atop a white mound, daring our opponents to fire back.  And fire back they did, but only half-heartedly, just to “keep up the side” before going on about their own snowball or snow fort business.  But for now, it was off-again on-again for the two of us going outside, as the vagaries of my cold and my mother’s varying edicts about the weather and her own convenience with the household chores convinced her that it was good for us to be outside, or not.

          After a week of grousing from Bob and complaining from me, my mother decided that it was probably best to let us have our head, before we drove her round the bend and there were three of us out of sorts.  On the Saturday she decided to let us go around in the magnanimously fluffy and non-pelting (for a change!) snowflakes falling decorously and softly in their little swirling dances down the mounded white lawn, my Uncle Joe was sitting at the table beside her and my father, having his tea.

Now, my father and mother were having coffee; my mother claimed not even to know how to make a proper cup of tea, or how to buy it, temper the pot, manage the kettle, measure the leaves, any of it. But as Uncle Joe was her brother, and he appreciated the perfect cuppa, he just gleamed wisely from behind his out-of-date moustaches when she said these things, which caused my father to roll his eyes. One of those repeated little family dramas which get their replays with variations every few days or weeks as a form of togetherness.

Uncle Joe, in his general visceral communicativeness and sociability, had even caught my cold, and he was now whuffling and snuffling over the hot, steaming brew and trying not to sneeze.  We were shrugging into our clothes to go outside, and moved aside, a bit leery of the upcoming explosion, but not to much avail: when Uncle Joe sneezed, though it was into his handkerchief—a grand affair with his initials embroidered on one corner and made of some fine absorbent linen—the sneeze was an equally grand affair.  Though none of us had been covered with anything untidy or germy, we all felt that we had.

Unfazed, my Uncle Joe blew his nose into the cloth and then looked into it for a few seconds, giving it full attention.

“Oh, God, Joe, that’s gross!” my father laughed in protest.

“Besides, it’s rude and so—and—the children—Joe, do you want them to pick up coarse ways?”  My mother equally countered her brother’s frank interest in his own physiognomy and its products.

“Ah, but, it’s just a silver sixpence!” insisted Joe, upon being so attacked.

As a worldly-wise ten-year-old, I sneered.  “Oh, it is not, Uncle Joe.  You’re joking us!”

Still not up to all the rigs, wee Bob shouted, “Let me see, let me see!  I’ve never seen a silver sixpence.  Where did you get it, Uncle Joe?”

The question was, of course, whether wee Bob even knew what a silver sixpence was.  I had little idea myself, though “pence” suggested money, and “silver” meant treasure.

“And won’t you look at that, from 1942, back during the war, when so many coins in Great Britain were made of silver because it was cheaper than other metals in use!” Exclaimed Uncle Joe.

“Spare us your numismatics, Joe,” my father laughed again, “you’re teaching my children bad manners!”

“Ah, and if they’d learned to sneeze properly and clear their airways, then Margery there wouldn’t still have the tail-end of a cold with wee Bob looking like he wants to get it from her any day!”  Joe rejoined.

“I’m well, and we’re going outside.  See you later, Uncle Joe,” I responded, making signs to wee Bob to hurry up about it before any adults could change their minds about our going out.  And we deserted our favorite uncle for his adultlike near-betrayal of us.

Outside, it was just the most perfect day!  It was cold, true, and the wind was chafing our cheeks quite red by the time we’d been in the whiteness for five minutes.  But the fort from a few days ago was still standing in the backyard, proof that my power in the neighborhood hadn’t waned, due to my carefully dissembled illness, and our sleds were outside the basement just wanting to slip down the hill above the fort into our waiting “stop” zones there.  We watched for victims from behind the walls of our fort, made extra tall with the help of my father on one of his days off, and gloated over the pile of as-yet-unthrown snowballs buried in a hidden pit in the fort’s most inside space.

“Ah, here it is now!” spoke a loud, booming voice behind us, making us both jump, I falling into the snow on top of my sled and wee Bob shrieking loudly enough to alert our foes.  I shushed him and turned to Uncle Joe, who was now standing in the rear of our fort, holding aloft a bright silver coin in his fingers, turning it this way and that to catch the sun, which humored him as we had not, coming out from clouds previously clustered gray around the skies.

“A silver sixpence!  A silver sixpence!” shouted wee Bob, as if acquainted with the phenomenon all his life.  “Can I hold it?”

Even I, however, though proof against the fiction of its having come from Uncle Joe’s nose, was not dead set against a look at it, or even a feel of it.  Always telling myself, of course, that as it had in no wise come out of his nose, it wasn’t unclean to handle.

We inspected it, and Uncle Joe, departing, tolerated an obligatory couple of snowballs thrown at him as we watched him walk away.  Once again sneezing and blowing his nose vigorously, then turning to see us looking, he held up the handkerchief as if it contained further treasures.  Then, we entered into the day with earnest abandon, managing to harass and drive from the yard three or four fellow snowballers brave enough to venture into our territory.  By the time we were chilled through and ready for cocoa and muffins, we’d forgotten all about Uncle Joe and his cold and his handkerchief and my parents’ distaste for his joke.

“Yes, I need to talk to the cashier at the main window.  I don’t think you here at the client desk can help me.”

“But maybe I can, uncle, maybe I can.  What is it that you are needing?”

“Uncle.  No one has called me that who wasn’t really related to me for a long time.  Not since Vietnam and my travelling days, after that.  I’ll tell you, it gives me a turn.”

“Do let me apologize for it if it seems to you a discourtesy; it is a title of respect in my country. I have not been here long, and so am a bit raw around the edges, maybe.  How can I help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it bothered me in a bad way; just brought back something of the past.  Well, the fact of the matter is that I’m in the way of playing a bit of a joke on my little niece and nephew.  And I need some particular silver sixpences from Great Britain, I guess they call it U.K. now.  But ones from about, well, from exactly 1942, as many, maybe, as would come in a roll of quarters, about forty.  Wait, excuse me a moment—a-haw-a-haw-a-haw! Huff—huff—huff—whachooo!”

“You must take care of that, uncle, sir, that is a dreadful cold you have!  It sounds like the flu, and a sore throat, and I hope not Covid all combined! Please forgive me for being frank. You shouldn’t be here trying to transact business with a condition like that.”  The kind voice paused.  “But in any case, unless you have much money for this joke, dear sir, it will be too expensive at a bank, especially.  I don’t even know if we could get it for you, in fact I rather think not.  Forty silver sixpences, costing probably around $22 each, no, too much.  Have you sought out any coin collectors?  Also likely to be pricey.”

The old man was nearly finished wiping his face.  His eyes were reddened and watery, and his face likewise rubicund and moist.  His forehead was pale, though, and looked sweaty.  But he faced the bank manager, determined though bleary-eyed.  “Look, my friend, I’m old.  I’m feeling on my last legs. I—”

“Don’t say that, uncle, you have only to take care of yourself!  Anyone who could consider spending so much money for a joke upon two children must surely be able to get good medical care. Do you want me to call someone for you?”

“NO! Let me talk, it’s hard enough through this…this…anyway, I need to find about forty, we’ll say, silver sixpences.  And the reason I want them from 1942 is because I want them real silver, but not as expensive as the most valuable ones.  You’re right that my resources aren’t limitless.  So, do you know of any coin collectors I could contact? Is the bank supplied with any, in touch with any?”

“Not that I am aware of, dear sir, and I think that—but you know, there is a street in the city, a town-within-a-town, I do recollect a junk dealer, not so much junk as old things, though he’s called a junk dealer.  His name, I believe, is Daniel Mattheas Willford.  My cousin once bought a dining set from his collection that seated twelve, an antique set, and was not cheated and was well content.  Just one moment, if you please, I will call my cousin at her place of business.  If she is able to answer the phone, I may be able to get the address and phone number for you.  Do you want a cell phone number or the store number?”

“Store number, please.  But likely, I’ll drop by.”

The manager went away and returned again after what seemed to the old man like only a minute, but a prolonged minute, a minute in which shadows came and went in the bank, in which he wished he could sit down across the aisle on the other side, except for not wanting the manager to think he had left precipitately.

“Here you are.  And please, dear uncle, think a little more of yourself and a little less of selfish children.  Children have the rest of their lives. You are old, and must take care of yourself.  Come again, when you are well.”

          “But it’s out of the question, Peter, he’s got some sort of lung infection or something, and is at death’s door!  Literally, at death’s door!  We can’t take the children into his home, however many doctors he has there with him!”

          “He only has the one and the attending nurse as far as I know.  But I mean, he made it his last wish to see them, and you know how he is, it’s probably for something between them and him, just as a way of saying goodbye.  And he is their favorite uncle.  And your own brother, after all.”

          Even though I was sitting in the dining room, I could hear them arguing in the kitchen; not that they were trying to keep it down, especially not my mother.  But my father lowered his voice and spoke calmly and soothingly, and as usually happened when he did that, he won his point.  As it turned out, we went to see Uncle Joe for the last time that very night, in the middle of a blinding snowstorm that my father had real difficulty seeing to drive through, the wipers going fast as fast, but still making nearly no headway against the white splats dotting the windshield and road before us.

          When we walked into Uncle Joe’s living room, the fire wasn’t lit as it usually had been when we visited during the winter, and it was cold and damp there.  My father looked towards the various decanters on the sideboard that Uncle Joe had usually regaled him with, but after staring for just a moment, both he and my mother went to whisper quiet words to the nurse, who true to the sort of old-fashioned form so typical of Uncle Joe’s life, wore a neat hospital-style uniform of starched white, with a small cap on her head and her hair neatly pinned up in a French bun behind.

          “Sit down and don’t mess with anything, Margery, Bob, and when it’s your turn to see Uncle Joe, we’ll come and get you.  He won’t be up to much talking, and he has lots of germs, because he’s sick and is getting ready, we think, to die.  Nothing like the colds you get, you don’t have to worry about dying, we’re here to take care of you.  But just don’t get too close around the bed, don’t crowd him, okay?”  We nodded and sat nervously, not even saying much to each other while they were out of the room.  Bob did get up once or twice and stroll aimlessly around just looking, but he was not breaking the rule not to touch, either.

          Finally, my father came back alone.  His eyes were sad, his black lashes a little wet, though I hesitated to conclude that he had been crying.  “He’s able to see you both now, kids.  Don’t expect him to talk too much, though you know how he is.  Smile at him, try not to cry.  Let him know you love him.”

          So right away, of course, as soon as we went in and had a seat side by side to one side of the bed and Uncle Joe was grinning his odd grin at us, wee Bob said, “We love you, Uncle Joe.  You know it, right?”  I was partly annoyed because he’d gotten in the word first, but also because it seemed so stupid and obvious and direct.

          “And me, too, Uncle Joe.  I love you, too,” was all it left me to say.

          Uncle Joe nodded rapidly at us, tried to speak, but started coughing and my mother shook her head at him and said, “Save your voice, Joe.”

          It was sort of awkward, there didn’t seem to be much to say, just thoughts about dying and not dying, and wondering how he felt, which would have been morbid somehow, under the circumstances.

          Suddenly, Uncle Joe himself broke the ice.  He was watching us, a little sad, wanting to say something, still smiling, though not full of jokes as usual.  But his face brightened and he gesticulated to the nurse.  She handed him a small bag of something, and he pulled a clean handkerchief out of his sheets below his chin.  Then, a wondrous thing: this sick man wrapped the something up in the handkerchief and tossed it to me.   It had weight and substance and with my best summer baseball glove hand, I caught it.  It was a drawstring bag with things inside, and though my mother darted to take it away, I palmed off the handkerchief it was wrapped in on her and huddled with my brother wee Bob over the bag itself.

          While we were pulling the bag open, we heard a croak.  We looked up.  It was Uncle Joe.  Sure enough, he was speaking to us.  It was faint, and cough-riddled, but we stopped what we were doing and listened.  “I had a lot of sneezes, kids.  I collected them for you; a lot of silver sixpences!  Twenty each.”

          I knew it was a trick, but it was winter magic, all the same.  Wee Bob, though, was taken in entirely.  He became very distressed: “But Uncle Joe, please, let’s put them back up your nose, please, let’s put them back!”

          “Why?” wheezed Uncle Joe.  “Why such a dirty ol’ place?”

          “So that you can get well and be with us again, and have your tea!”

          Uncle Joe laughed then, a horrendous sound in that narrow room.  “Here you go, Bobby, you get the last one, mine, just for that!”  And he flipped it over to Bob.

          And with that, he was gone, expiring in a coughing paroxysm as my father herded us from the room. 

Bio: Victoria Leigh Bennett, (she/her).  Greater Boston, MA area, born WV.  Ph.D., English/Theater.  Website: creative-shadows.com.  “Come for the shadows, stay for the read.”  In-Print: “Poems from the Northeast,” 2021.  OOP but on website for free: “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris),” [CNF in English], 2022.  From Fall 2021-Spring 2023, Victoria will have published at least 31 times with: @olympiapub, @Feversof, @HooghlyReview, @TheUnconcourier, @barzakhmag, @bullshitlitmag, @AmphoraMagazine, @press_roi, @thealienbuddha, @LovesDiscretion, @themadrigalpress, @winningwriters, @cultofclio.  She is the organizer behind the poets’ collective @PoetsonThursday on Twitter along with Dave Garbutt and Alex Guenther.  Twitter:  @vicklbennett & @PoetsonThursday.  Mastodon:  @vickileigh@mstdn.social & @vickileigh@writing.exchange.  Victoria is ocularly and emotionally disabled.

New book “Oil Stains Like Rorschachs” Out by Author Matthew McGuirk from Anxiety Press

Matthew McGuirk’s latest Hyrid Collection “Oil Stains Like Rorschachs” is now available from Anxiety Press which you can purchase on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BKMS59Y8

This is what some other great writers are saying about Matthew McGuirk’s new book.

In this collection, McGuirk establishes his reputation as one of the most celebrated short-story writers in modern American letters.

“McGuirk’s writing wraps around your heart like a snapped coolant belt from Brook’s Autos. Oil stains like Rorschachsassembles broken youths failed by their parent’s own expectations and failures. Bonded by oil spills and ink splatters these perfectly articulated misfits find the tools to repair not only the autos that bring them together but also themselves. Yet not everything or everyone can always be fixed.” — James Jenkins, author of Parochial Pigs

“Matt McGuirk’s latest hybrid collection is a masterclass in voice. Once you dive head first into Brooks’ School of Grease Monkeys, you won’t want to come up for air. The vivid cast of characters Matt creates draws you into their world, their lives, and their stories punctuated with poignant poetry. Blending realism and compassion, Matt’s crew will make you think, long after you close the book.” — Beth Mulcahy, Pushcart Prize nominated poet and writer

“Like Carver before him, McGuirk takes men from hardscrabble lives and humanises them using the soft edges we all possess, even if we hide them from view. This collection fits together like a purring, powerful engine.” — Scott Cumming Author of A Chapbook About Nothing and The Blue Chapbook

“Matthew McGuirk masters poetry and prose alike, and jumps from one to the other elegantly in this accomplished collection, offering us memories of various moments of a lifetime in varying flows of words and tones which mirrors the meandering of one introspective mind, that is sometimes detailed, sometimes economical, but always deep and compassionate with the author’s trademark witty bleakness that makes him such a delight to read.” — BF Jones, author of Something Happened at 2am

Here are some links to Matthew’s work here on Fevers of the Mind.








Here is Matthew’s Linktree


Twitter: @McGuirkMatthew Instagram: @mcguirk_matthew

A Short Fiction/CNF Hybrid Story from Victoria Leigh Bennett

from pixababy

White Withers and White Fangs

          I was anxious to go out, to get away, to be off for good, but the woman behind the sign-in/sign-out window said, “Are you sure you want to sign yourself out?  You only committed yourself two days ago.  And it’s against doctor’s recommendations.”

          “I’m sure,” I said, wanting to present a united front with all of me, so as not to encourage my own second thoughts or more barriers from her.

          “Okay, then, sign here; here; and here.”  Her stubby but well-groomed nail hovered over three different spots on the form.  Ritual three, was my distracted thought.

          Without looking at the form, I signed my name three times, and turned to go.

          “If you should need to sign back in, be sure and let the person here at the window know that you signed in before.”  And she ducked her head to one side to watch me and make sure I got the message.

          But I was already nearly out the door.  “Whatever,” I answered, sullenly.  I’d tired of the jokes in the crisis unit about “hellfire” and “toasted buns” from the other clients who also hadn’t been diagnosed yet, when the lunch buns came burned the day before.  Likewise, I’d heard enough about the witchcraft they all seemed earnestly to believe in, and discussed constantly, if not knowledgeably by literary standards.  Not to say, I was freaked out.  I mean, just plain freaked out.  Why were a bunch of assorted people, who weren’t supposed to have known each other before signing in, all on the same page regarding sorcery?  All I could do to remove myself from it was to get back out again, since reporting it would only make me look crazy, too.  I’d spent enough alone time starting to wonder in my educated-but-becoming-unwound mind if lunacy did in fact have something to do with the moon and enchantment, and not the good kind of enchantment.

     What’d been my final straw was what had happened in the Sanskrit class, when the instructor, who’d started us on the Pancha Tantra, or animal tales, had sat by me in the small living-room-furnished classroom and deliberately growled at me.  He was supposed to be reading out a sentence, but as he sounded out one of the Sanskrit “r’s,” he distinctly growled, the intimate love-growl of predator to prey, and smiled oddly without looking at me, as I looked up at him—a tall man—and felt the thrill of being sought and the panic of being attacked all at once.

          It was a spell cast, and when I exited the room that day, I was still hearing it, still feeling it, still under its influence, even to the evening when I left the crisis unit.  That night when I finally made my way into my apartment, where for some reason before going to the crisis unit I hadn’t picked up groceries for about a week, but felt some kind of hunger, I heard the growl in the refrigerator’s smooth hum, in the heat coming up from the radiators, in the in-between-channels radio clock’s static.  In a desperate state, I reasoned that whether it was real or not, there was a solution:  I grabbed a bottle of garlic powder and began to sprinkle liberal amounts of it everywhere I heard the growl.  Though the radio now released choked sounds rather than full growls, the refrigerator and the heating system were unaffected.

          I made myself pull open the door of the refrigerator finally; there was only a bowl of cranberry jelly left over from Canadian Thanksgiving, which had been on October 10th.  Good!  I thought when I saw the redness lurking right on a center shelf.  Its heart!  Reaching into the growling monster, I pulled its heart out and consumed the whole bowl, standing up in front of it, with the prongs of a fork spearing the red corpuscles up.  Now, I’d eaten the werewolf’s heart.  We’d have no more of that growling!

          But the radiators…what about them?  The refrigerator had magically ceased its steady hunt when the door was opened, so I left it open, its heart gone now, and faced the garlic-covered radiators.  After a few panicked moments, during which I was fearful of losing the advantage of the gains I’d already made with the clock radio and the refrigerator, those avatars of evil that had before been so innocent, it was clear that the radiators were far more ancient in evil still and weren’t going to quiet down.  They not only growled, they laughed evilly in wheezy gasps, and their breath was dry and forbidding, in spite of the hiss and spit of the floor gauge.  The only thing to do was to get out of there until the apartment was cleansed, until maybe the garlic I’d spread around had had more time to work in the absence of the curse I’d brought along in with me.  It was following me, so I had to take it out and be rid of it so that my apartment could be cleansed.  Leaving the door ajar for the spirit to be gone when I got back, I went back out the door, carefully taking my keys with me so that the front door of the building would still be accessible to me later.  If there was a later; I shivered.

          As I walked swiftly in the moonlight through street after street, trying to shake my panic, I knew that I was like a white mare, my footsteps making a hollow sound on the cobblestone then concrete then cobblestone sidewalks as I clopped along, fast then slow then fast again in my urge to get away from what pursued me.  I thought about a notion of Jung’s with the part of my mind that was still consciously human and not animal, logical and not instinctive:  Jung had said that to dream of a white horse was a sign of approaching death…but I wasn’t dreaming, I was awake, and I was the nightmare I was having, myself.  And I was being hunted.  Too late I thought of the safety of the building I’d left.  But it was too late, I was outside in the chilled October air now, breathing in the cold.  I thought of him again, and of what he would do when he caught me.

He would jump up on my white haunches and tear at them, he would snatch at my hooves to bring me down, he would slobber and foam over my wounds as he drove sharp fangs into my being!

          In my haste to be away from what was pursuing me, I dashed through street after street, intersection after intersection, most of them seemingly deserted and yet still lit brightly, as if by torches and firelight and flames.  I passed away from the streets I knew, but in the part of me that was still fleetingly human, I had the tiny thought that Toronto was a geometrically laid-out city in the downtown part, and I might be able to find my way back, if I could escape.

Just as I crossed the next intersection, I happened to look up the hill.  Last night’s gibbous moon was now full, bright, and shining, making deep shadows down even between the streetlights’ shadows of the tall buildings.  And in the next parallel intersection up the hill, there he was, crossing as I crossed, in his human incarnation!  He was crossing parallel to me, obviously stalking, the jacket he always wore clear in the light—but it was a darker blue, now, more nightlike.  I had no doubt that it was he.

I slowed, shaking my head, feeling my mane against my withers, which danced with apprehension.  He turned left at the intersection, down my way, coming down the street towards where I was crossing.

In final desperation, I turned and headed towards him, right at him, as he turned the corner and made towards me.  But when I reached where he should have been, he wasn’t visible.  He was incorporeal, somehow!  My heart whinnied, and I screamed, and the beast was upon me, and in my being, I shivered and whinnied again—my withers shuddered and stiffened without my volition, my mane stood on end where it hung from my head, and I was deathly alive, and attacked.  I couldn’t see him, but I could smell him, the aftershave, then the sudden smell of his animal self, his shaggy pelt, his teeth stained with rich, fresh blood.  I turned my head towards him, my own teeth flashing and trying to fight back, suddenly becoming sharp and pointed in my mind.  And then, I growled in return.  I reared back on my back legs and aimed at him, and fought, and flashed my fangs again.  A shiver travelled through me.  Was he?  Was I?  Could I be?  I was untrammeled and free now!  And I was like him, and unafraid.

Bio: Victoria Leigh Bennett, (she/her).  Greater Boston, MA area, born WV.  Ph.D., English & Theater. In-print books: “Poems from the Northeast,” “Scenes de la Vie Americaine (en Paris)” [in English], both from Amazon.  Website: creative-shadows.com. “Come for the shadows, stay for the read.”  Between Aug. 2021-Sept. 2022, Victoria will have published at least 22 times with: Roi Faineant Literary Press, The Alien Buddha Press, Barzakh Magazine, Amphora Magazine, The Madrigal Press, and others.  She writes Fiction/Flash/CNF/Poetry.  Victoria is the organizer behind @PoetsonThursday on Twitter, along with Alex Guenther (@guentheralex) and Dave Garbutt (@DavGar51).  Twitter: @vicklbennett.  Victoria is emotionally and ocularly disabled.

“It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleedin’ (An Anthem for a Doomed Youth) by Alan Catlin

'It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleedin' 
                         An Anthem for a Doomed Youth 

I never fit in.  I wasn't cool, I didn't play Sports, none of the fraternities would consider me in a million years and if you weren't in a fraternity or didn't play Sports you were no one. A great big Zero.  Girls treated me as if I had a contagious disease or the bubonic plague or both. Until I was sixteen.  I lost thirty pounds in six weeks working out all summer, doing football exercises in the incredible humid August mornings and afternoons.  the pounds melted off, replaced by muscles. By summer's end I had to drink three San Miguel beers after the afternoon workout just to out back the water weight lost.  Drank them at the married woman's house rented from my cousin's family, a property they would rent until they pissed it all away on weekend binges that got longer every weekend through the late sixties until they lost everything they owned and the aunt died way too young.  But that's another story.
Afternoons spent at the married woman's.  Could it have been my imagination or was she trying to get me drunk, get the cousin drunk, no she didn't really care for him, he was crazy after all, scarred from the fall he took after he knocked up Skinny Ginny and was dropped on his face and beat to a bloody pulp for transgressions upon the person of a way hot girl, fourteen pushing eighteen with a blunt instrument and no one mentioned the stillborn twins she bore months after the fall.  No, no one saw much of Ginny either after, no one knows where she went., what she did but one thing for sure, they couldn't afford to put Doug's face back together with plastic surgery either. But the beers were cold and the married woman was saying stop by every day, there's always cold beers here for you, I'll be waiting remember that.  And so would her roommate, a petite beautiful fraulein, flat chested, my type but definitely way too old, maybe thirty and not interested in young boys like the San Miguel woman, fat, how old, who knows? Who remembers? Who cares? She had two children, husband always on the road and her eyes roving, roving always, handing me the San Miguel, her fingers lingering on mine as she puts the frosty there. I chug it down and wonder if I'm living some kind of perverse Holden Caulfield nightmare at the end of the earth on Long Island, a Peyton Place revisited and everyone who mattered would know I was lingering here but how else was I going to get those beers, just turning seventeen, mean and lean now, a girlfriend who defied the odds of liking a misfit, more my style, more my age, turning seventeen that year as well, mid sixties of it's alright ma I'm only Bleedin’
And when I was done doing workouts, I was  in Pug’s cellar drinking beers, his parent's  didn't mind as long as there was no hard stuff involved, at least they knew where we were, hanging out listening to Rubber Soul over and over again, later, cruising the parking area on the docks overlooking the channel, checking out the inevitable rows and rows of parkers, who was doing who, and endless cruising, aimless, boredom, the watchword of the summer from the surfing movie, Endless Summer, our motto, "You really missed it, you should have been here yesterday---"That movie we drove into the city to see, passing the Last Exit to Brooklyn sign we longed to steal, unreachable so far above the concrete viaduct, full speed ahead, damn the traffic, highways, as if we could ever live a last exit to Brooklyn life, having just discovered that you could smoke the grass but not, like Charlie Chaplin's son had so wisely observed, the grass that grew on father's lawn.  And we were ready to try anything to relieve the boredom, dressed in our official Bob Dylan Village Rebel  outfits, maroon CPO jacket, faded jeans, torn moccasins or boots, our hands thrust deep into our pockets averting people's gazes, looking at the cracks in the sidewalk and appearing lost in some kind of transcendental thought that would probably translate into thinking of ways to get out of paying to do the same things twice years before Dylan had written the “Memphis Blues Again”. But he hadn't. So we had to settle for the revelation of “Blonde on Blonde”, “the sad eyed lady of the lowlands” blowing us away, hey yeah “positively fourth street,”” maggie's farm”, those spanish boots of spanish letter, if we were depressed and I was all the time depressed, this was music to fall into, hands deep in the pockets head full of beer, formative poems, the worst kind of adolescent riffs, attempting to find form on paper as some did and it would take years to get over the songs, the lyrics, the sad eyed poems, maybe a lifetime because time became compressed then accelerated out of control all through the sixties until whole lifetimes were created and expired in millennial highlights of a generation we were only half aware of participating in even as we stood on the sidelines, a Marlboro draped from our lips, Bogarting the filters like Jimmy Deans on a bums rush to the apocalypse in VW bugs instead of corvettes, chewing sunflower seeds in Pug's cellar, Nelson's idea. Nelson who would do anything female, do any drug that stood still long enough to be ingested, or anything that might be a drug, and who years later, after he was busted and forced to make a special choice:              six years in a place of poor quality up north with hard assed criminal felon types hungry for hippie ass or three years in the service of your choice in the middle of an escalating war. This was a time of unenlightened marijuana laws and possession of residue could get your ass shit canned for an unbelievable time and Nelson took the obvious choice, the air corps. Then he turning up at my door before he shipped out to who the fuck knows where south east asian style, in uniform, impressing the shit out of my mother, not knowing he was there to attempt a cop, but it would be alight. Maybe. Soon, we'd be smoking banana peels,  hell it was the age of Mellow Yellow and we were naive enough to believe anything.
And San Miguel was the beer of choice well into the season although I was not playing ball, I was working out like a madman. Suddenly the girls thought I wasn't such an awful thing, in fact, it was if I had acquired a musky scent of passion and they were all wide-eyed at the transformation, but I was true to my first love only taking out my former ostracized as-a-loser- frustrations, on all the greasers and punks and frat dudes who had spent five years dissing me in gym class, blowing them away in flag football games, on the wrestling mats, dodge balls wounds inflicted  at unbelievable rates of speed and on the basketball court where my endless practicing was paying off with the addition of a body to fit the skills acquired working out before and after football practices, a sport I wisely didn't pursue into the high school season as our overmatched team was destroyed by larger schools, all the athletes in our school draft exempt because of the career threatening knee injuries, except for mine. And on the court where I outran them, took them to the hoop and used tricks learned on pickup courts, taking them out on lay ups, undercutting, swift shoves no ref would ever see, bodies up against the wall mother fuckers or face down on the mat broken nose rubbed in it, it was cool for all that year and after school there was always the San Miguels waiting in the ice box a couple of blocks away, San Miguel morning noon and night if I wanted them. and I wanted them. as I worked on my drinking problem right from the start of a drinking career that would span thirty years of wildly spinning out of control circles a vortex of whirl pooling hells, visions of demented Johanna’s on each level, all the baby blues of the mind screaming from pits of burning swamps. I was naked and alive giddy with the prospect of singing into the wildfires of dissipation, going down helter-skelter like man, years before Manson and I was ready for what would come, the hard stuff: drink drugs you name it, walking a thin tightrope of tenuous mental confusions, but I was so much older than that, I'm younger than that now.
And shit yeah, It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding, my knuckles raw from punching the walls, stucco patterned sides of buildings, glass doors and windows that gave in and caused endless lines, scars that are still visible on the broken increasingly arthritic hands, faint now but a constant reminder of what it was like to be seventeen and confused enough to think that depression and dissipation and disaffection and anger added up to being a poet manqué and that someday I would grow up to be Bob Dylan and get to live in the Village and walk around with a beautiful hippie chick hugging me close, my eyes firmly on the ground, thinking profound thoughts, reading the poets of dismay and decay and the death french modernists, rimbaud, verlaine, baudelaire and the wild men of no religion no god, I was a poet in the making and it only took a couple of San Miguels to get me there and the hands on the wall, the one reaching for the cold bottles in the fridge was this hot to trot, missing two front teeth married babe the kids are asleep hubby is on the road and I'm oh so lonely oh so lonely for what only a young man can give me, a real four star Holden C. thing and I did what any self respecting Salinger youth would do: I  left a 45 rpm record for her to listen to a remake of Bob classic, “it ain't me babe”, by the turtles for her, an unmistakable message for her to get and she did alright, ma…go away from my window, leave at your own chosen speed, I'm not the one you want babe, I'm not the one you need, you say you're looking for someone, to bring you up each time you fall, to defend you and to protect you, to come each time you call, someone who will die for you and more, well it ain't me babe…and the verse not on the record the one that is closest to me now, a man sitting in darkness remembering the fateful, fitful past: melt back into the night babe, everything in here is made of stone, there's nothing in here moving ,and anyway I'm not alone…not alone, the images are living, dividing the past and the future into skinner box mazes I'm traveling lost  and blind in, stealing booze from cabinets or getting the Colt 45's the aunt left on the back porch for us in paper bags as if they were some kind of Halloween candies for young men drinking to get high, to escape from the place where they were like the advertisement for downhill racer I would adapt as my credo years later staring out over the frozen wastes of the utica fields drunk and stoned into hallow man numbness…how long does it take a man to get from where he's at?...how long, I couldn't imagine it then, can't even now. Making the scene, whatever it was, still not someone who belonged but not treated as an untouchable, invisible useful as something to mock when all else failed or to ridicule or just piss on in the showers after an especially humiliating gym class, now a full-fledged rebel without a cause answering the call of the graduating youth service with my girlfriend and fellow seniors in the congregational youth service that I would begin my portion of, not mouthing the usual platitudes of god and man and youth and obedience to the cause and the right way whatever that was, standing up and saying, quoting the play and the dictum we worshipped from Marat/ Sade, Satan's prayer
O pray to him
Our Satan which art in hell
they kingdom come
thy will be done
on earth as it is in hell
forgive us our good deeds
and deliver us from holiness
Lead us
Lead us into temptation
forever and ever”

a prelude to a short speech on the hypocrisy of church and state that brought a stunned silence and a communal, massive, reproving look from the little how townsfolk, row upon row of protestant good people all gone now, that last time I would be welcome inside that church until a generation later at a memorial service for my poor, dead, crazy as they got mother. And I soon I would be writing a Marat/ Sade of my own blindly going headlong down a vortex of my briefing for a descent to hell and it would go like this:

Marat/ Sade, as seen from inside, the Mineola
Playhouse, a BxW Still Life 1966

This is not the theater as we know it
but something artificial called Psycho
Drama.  The character named Corday
is afflicted with the disease of sleeping,
insomnabulism, a walking infirmity common
to night creatures, that causes them to walk
the zombie life, without direction.
In the bathtub is a man whose dreaming
has caused his skin to erupt in sores
that can only be assuaged by laving,
a process similar to washing with lava
also known as trial by fire.
The wicked one who claims to be the Director
of farces is False as the word sadist
is not written in the Blue Dictionary
of Life as seen lying open by the tub
where Marat has left it after Corday
has dispatched him into blessed sleep
forever with her knife.  On the walkway
ringing the stage, looking down on this
Live Performance are the inmates,
howling and jabbering their approval
of what is enacted on the live stage.
When the house lights dim, framing us,
the inmates in hospital gowns turn
grey, then black until all that can be
seen is the red fire lights of our eyes
flickering on and off in the dark.

And I was in the dark, 1966, nursing pints of contraband Vodka, sitting in the ball field dugout after dark  drinking it straight on the edge of nowhere, the edge of the abyss, the edge of the sixties getting ready to jump off, screaming at the top of my lungs “It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding”, a carpe diem, live for today, national anthem for the doomed youth I was becoming faster than light years, faster than speeding bullets, speedballs, and marijuana faster than the tickets that are exploding all around me, this death on an installment plan midnight express, the milk train doesn't stop here anymore, up against it all the way, Ma, I'm only bleeding waiting in the shadows for that nineteenth nervous breakdown to claim it's most willing, its newest victim, getting her mother's little helpers screaming inside, hey you get off of my cloud, the smoke ringed clouds of nowhere 1966.

The return & revised version of “New Disease Streets” by David L O’Nan Poetry and stories


The poems & stories in this collection is a representation of the hovering stain of the year 2020. A year filled with disease, greed, hate, depression, moments of unity that only feel empty being overseen by a world of dictators. The sadness, the lies, the deprived. That is the New Disease Streets Collection.

Current bio for Fevers of the Mind’s David L O’Nan editor/writing contributor to blog.

Poetry from David L O’Nan in the Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers

Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan Anthology available today!

Available Now: Before I Turn Into Gold Inspired by Leonard Cohen Anthology by David L O’Nan & Contributors w/art by Geoffrey Wren