Last Words

Last Words

have finality

force

they can’t be taken back

I’ve spoken them few times

Usually when I didn’t mean to

and I always regretted saying them

But there are times when last words should be said

when you cry death to your life

or death to a job

These words have power

they will never be forgotten by those who heard them

and this is how writers should write

I seldom remember words spoken at funerals

because they are usually tired metaphors that don’t mean anything

What will we say to those we leave behind?

What words will we say to HR?

If there is such a thing as a good death,

the words that precede it must mean something

Can you express your whole life in half a sentence?

And can the words that are said redeem a man

for his lifetime?

We rehearse last words that are never said

I’ve got a whole memory full of them

and they want to come out

but these words never sound the same

after I’ve been thinking them for years

Last words can only be said once

and then they lose their power

They are said spontaneously

When there is no hope

When there is no retreat

When there is nothing

absolutely nothing

I remember last words that were spoken

but I never talk about them

I have reverence for their finality

to say them again

would cheapen their memory

Last words should mean something

if you can’t say them

someone else will

And nobody gets last words right

other than the person who says

their last

I strike the piano keys and remember old emotions

I strike the piano keys and remember old emotions

feelings that echo beyond my life

I saw cruelty on people’s faces today

and surprising kindness

I wonder what face I show to the world?

People think they can hide

but they can’t

Their music flows out of them

fluctuating

between highs and lows

I can’t stop listening

and I need to disconnect

My music is the sweet songs of the forest

and the stream that washes away my stress

People are looking in the wrong directions

and they can’t find their way

What they want

is not what they need

I look forward to one conversation at the end of the day

Sometimes I just need to talk

and she listens

a blessed soul

We discuss how things aren’t going well

and we share what we love

There is no need to hide

because our music sings the same

The Coming Years

When we are young, we compare ourselves to the great people we would like to be. It is a game that we play growing up. “You can be so and so, and I’ll be the hero.” When we get older, we get sent on different trajectories; trying to jump out of these would be life changing. There is too much to lose. It would be like needing to start all over again and the thought of doing this is horrifying. This thought stays with us as we get older. We have less time and we aren’t who we used to be, not that we knew a heck of a lot about anything back then.

Still, I am surprised when I hear young people just starting out, talking about their plans. They have good heads on their shoulders and their generation is not mine. They have different ways of getting there. And I know that we have limited time to get where we need to be. We are not who we were when we were 20 and the world is not the same either. This can be exhilarating and depressing. We change with the world and our dreams change as well. Eventually our generation will disappear.

When I think about these things, I have two thoughts. One thought knows that thinking is overrated. Doing what you can in the day is everything. People have bought into the notion of incremental growth, but this is often used to justify inaction or poor results. Reality is too frustrating to acknowledge. We can only fail so often until we tell ourselves we are getting better or we decide to move on to something else. But we know that moving on has a cost, so we stick with what we know, and we pray beyond hope that our invisible striving will one day manifest. My second thought knows that if we set down to do anything, we should do it now. We should not limit ourselves based on who we think we are. I’ve heard countless people say “I wasn’t ready.” But we can get ready in an instant.

Chapter 5 Chasing the Sun

If you’ve ever been for a long hike without water, the last few miles will test how bad you want to make it home. Your stomach clenches, your eyes burn, and your legs want to give in to gravity. Frank was not going to stop walking. If he’d had water, he would’ve been tempted to stay with his gold because walking away from hundreds of millions of dollars is unnatural. It can be downright depressing. It is like finding a winning lottery ticket in a parking lot and letting it blow away.

In the desert, water is more valuable; it keeps you alive; and Frank knew this. He was closer to the steel beast now and water was on his mind, clear and cool, dripping down his head, messaging his burned skin, and refreshing his insides. The Semi was silver with blue trim. Red flames licked the engine and tinted black windows made it look unreal, like it didn’t haul normal things. A door opened and a small man with a potbelly climbed down to the pavement. His Nascar hat and black sunglasses made him look fast.

“You look like you need somethin’ to drink,” he said.

Frank nodded and the trucker returned with a Big Gulp. “Mountain Dew; this will chase your worries away.” Frank held the cup in his hands and heard the ice cubes bumping into each other. Nothing sounded better. He popped the lid and drank the green liquid, feeling an injection of energy.

“Where are you headed?” The trucker asked.

Owing to his dehydration and dazed mind, Frank didn’t have the good sense to lie. “I need to make a deposit in the nearest bank.”

“What do you need to deposit?”

“Dreams,” Frank said.

“Oh, I realize a man’s business is a man’s business. I didn’t mean to pry. If you feel strong enough, climb aboard and I’ll take you there. It’s at least 100 miles due west. Frank climbed the ladder and sat inside the beast. Its brain lit up; lights and navigation cast colors into the dark interior.

“It’s dangerous to be out there alone; you can die easily from many things, but I’m sure you already know that,” the trucker said.

Frank nodded. He didn’t want to get involved with idle chit-chat. He just wanted to keep drinking and no matter how much Mountain Dew he drank, his thirst continued.

“If you need a refill, I’ve got lots of cans in the back. I’ve even got ice in the cooler by your feet. Now we need to make good time and chase the sun. My name’s Jordan.” He extended a hand, missing a finger and a thumb and Frank grabbed it, never happier to make someone else’s acquaintance.

Jordan flipped the radio switch, turning on country music. It was a woman’s voice and she was singing about her love that she had lost. The steel beast roared to life and the gears shifted into first as the sun set behind the nearest hill. Jordan shifted into second and then into third. His rig ate up the asphalt in a mad rush to catch the disappearing light. The hills were red and the sky was turning black. The 18-wheeler roared up the canyon, not losing any speed.

There was a whole new stretch of land to cover before the sun decided to go to sleep and Jordan needed to chase it. This time he would catch it. The West is where the sun sets. It’s where dreams are found and fortunes are made. Not a word was exchanged in the cab that evening, but Frank and Jordan were thinking about the same thing; dreams that can’t go to sleep and dreams that must be realized.

Nothing beats the company of genuine friends. They tell you your weaknesses, encourage your strengths, and celebrate your victories. -Intellectual Shaman

You can Beat the System when you need less and give more. -Intellectual Shaman

Ladies’ Day

Some days we wake up wondering if we are going to make it, and on others, we know that heaven or hell can’t hold us back. It was Ladies’ Day at Maplewood Golf Course and my job was to stage carts. I entered the Pro Shop to retrieve my key and Kirk greeted me with his usual, “Andrew.” I found out I was working with Jerry. He was tanned, 55 years old, and wore a gold chain around his neck. I’ve never met anyone more high-strung. Jerry liked his job because he could cruise around and flirt with the women. He needed constant redirection and if he didn’t know what he was supposed to do, he would start talking faster. Without an intervention he would work himself into a panic and start screaming over the radio. Usually, this was when the head pro would speak to him in his slow casual drone. “Jerry, calm down.” But Jerry wouldn’t calm down. “We have too many golf carts on number 7 and we’re missing a sign on number 6!” And the head pro would repeat what he said in the same slow casual drone. “Jerry, calm down!”

The ladies were arriving. Most of them wore checkered pants and silk polo shirts. I was looking for younger ones, but they were all over the age of 40. They looked like they worked corporate jobs and told people what to do all day.

I got a call over the radio. “Pro Shop to Andy, Pro Shop to Andy. Our first group is about to tee off and we need a Yamaha on number 1.” I walked into the cart barn and there was Jenny. She was dressed in a pink polo top and a short mini skirt. She lit a cigarette between her pink painted lips and smiled at me. I got into the nearest golf cart, thinking about our age difference. She was 28 and I was 16; it could work. I gunned the golf cart extra fast and hit the curb on the way out. She made most men act the same way. It was a combination of pheromones, cigarette smoke, and her voice suggesting things that weren’t said. She sold a lot of chips and beer.

I parked the golf cart near the championship tees and jumped out. But then I noticed the ladies were milling about on the putting green near the white tees. Maybe I should move the golf cart forward. And I did. Then I noticed a registration tent near the red tees and it dawned on me, obviously the ladies will be teeing off from their own tees. And I moved the cart up again.

Two ladies glared at me as I walked back to the Pro Shop. I didn’t pay them any attention because I was on my lunch break. I entered the club house to raucous pandemonium.

“Andy, that was pure genius,” Kirk said. He slapped me on the back.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Oh, this just keeps getting better. You mean, you don’t know?” Kirk was laughing so hard he could barely talk and the head pro smiled.

“Should we tell him?” Jerry asked.

“Okay, tell ‘im,” the head pro said.

“When you parked near the championship tees, the ladies tried to load their golf clubs onto the back of your cart. They lifted them high and you drove away. They caught up with you again and you did the same thing. Margret is a lawyer. I bet she wants to sue your ass.”

“But I didn’t mean to,” I said. Everybody laughed. It was uncontrollable. I didn’t realize how funny it was until I was eating my Bogey Burger and fries five minutes later.

My Dad Wrote a Story Once

My dad liked to talk about science fiction stories he had read.
Usually, I thought up a great idea for a story and he would say,
“That one has been done before.”
I would feel disappointed, let down, and it would be difficult to keep listening
As he sipped his Black Coffee
And told me about another one of his favorite Sci-Fi Books

My dad wrote his own story once
And told me about it
He would take these coffee breaks at work and think up ideas
The problem was the stress of the 12 hour day was affecting his mood
He was depressed and it was affecting his writing

My dad explained how he’d written himself into a corner
“Things were different then. I was using a manual typewriter.”
“Once my story stopped, there was nothing for me to do.”

As an excited child
I asked
“But couldn’t you have backed up and rewritten it?”

Dad shook his head
“No, it was far too done to do anything about it.”
“I thought I was a writer once, but writers write.”

I thought about this for a moment
realizing my dad had accepted defeat too quickly
He never tried to write again
And continued to reread his favorite science fiction stories

My dad also had opinions about the great American writers
I’d say something like
“Hey dad, I just finished reading The Old Man and the Sea.
Boy, Hemingway sure knew how to describe the shadow of greatness in an old man.”
My dad looked at me with sad eyes,
“Hemingway blew his brains out with a shotgun,” he said.
“That man didn’t know how to write to save his life.”
“Now Robert Heinlein was a great writer until he became a pervert.”
“If you want to read something good, you should read Starship Troopers.”
“I have a copy of it in the back garage.” 

Duck on the Driving Range

I was busy cleaning the mud off golf clubs and golf carts when it happened. I look back on this time with nostalgia, but I know most people wouldn’t trade places with me. I enjoyed being a cart kid because I worked in isolation. Wade was on duty that afternoon and it was getting hot in the Pro Shop; the heat always aggravated his unstable temper. He’d been closing the last week and his till kept coming back five dollars short.

While I was returning a messy golf cart filled with unopened beer, I noticed Wade through the Pro Shop window. He was turning bright red, almost purple and his neck was pulsating. I looked through the other window to see what was upsetting him and there was the boss. She was waving her finger at him, undoubtedly giving him a scolding for coming up short. Kelly exited the Pro Shop and waddled down to her Lexus, whereby, I entered. Wade was gasping for air, like he’d been punched in the gut.

“I should’ve been killed in Nam,” he said. “Working for a woman is worse than fighting Charlie.” He spoke to me in a whimpering voice that had been beaten. “Andy, go get me a frozen sherbet, will you? I need to collect my wits for a bit.” His face was all blotchy and if this hadn’t happened before, I would’ve sworn he was about to have a stroke.

I walked into the break room that smelled of hard alcohol, stale cigarettes, men’s aftershave, and BO. I always walked through it holding my breath. I don’t know how some of the guys could eat their food in there. The freezer was empty, with the exception of one cup of frozen sherbet. It was the kind that came with a wooden spoon. I grabbed it and sure hoped it would make Wade feel better.

Just then, a voice crackled over my radio.

“Pro Shop to Andy, Pro Shop to Andy. Where is my frozen sherbet? And we have a duck on the driving range we need you to catch.”

I ran back to the Pro Shop to give Wade his ice cream. “Next time I expect you to do it faster,” Wade said. “Now get in the picker and see if you can catch that duck before it gets hit by a golf ball and we get sued.”

I hopped into the cart and gunned it in the duck’s direction, which caused the bird to run away. Wade forgot to tell the driving range to stop hitting golf balls. I jumped out and tackled the bird. It bit me three times before I got my hand around its neck. I hoped I didn’t have bird flu. When I got back, I released it into the wild, drank the unopened beers, and went home feeling like I’d accomplished something.

As an amateur golfer hoping to improve my social skills and golf game, one of the mistaken assumptions I made was thinking that I could do this by randomly joining groups of golfers on the local city golf course. These were all types, desperate husbands who needed to get away from their wives, high powered business executives who were one meeting away from losing their sanity, and blue-collar types who started drinking at 6 AM because they thought they played better golf when they were drunk.

When I joined these groups, I’d shake their hands, getting a sense of what I was in for. They all had oral fixations, smoking, drinking, or chewing tobacco and the occasional bubble gum. It was like they were kids who never grew up and the golf course was their own Neverland, the place they could return to after a lifetime of responsibility. I was just starting out, trying to figure-out a lot of things. I don’t know if the golf course was the best place to do this, but it was my entry into the adult world.

Ryan was a regular at Maplewood. He had his cronies and they were all going to turn pro. One of them had a landscaping business and the other drove a red Porsche. A cloud from their cigarettes and cigars lingered above them as they waited for the next guy to tee off. They drank Fosters. It came in the large cans and between their three golf carts, they had four coolers filled with beer.

“Ryan, when are you going to quit your job at the golf course and join the tour?” One of them asked.

“About the time you stop drinking and living with your mom,” Ryan said.

They left the number 1 tee, driving as fast as they could to hole number 1. Ryan preferred the old Yamaha; it was the souped-up Marshal Cart that nobody drove anymore because it went too fast. It didn’t make turns well and the steering wheel only worked half of the time. By number 4, Ryan was plastered. He drove it under a tree at 35 miles per hour, neglecting the low-hanging limbs. The top ripped off. This would’ve fazed most people, but not Ryan. He worked there. No one would care. And if the boss noticed, he could find a plausible excuse; this was is forte.

By the time they reached number 9, Ryan was bored. He wanted to see how fast the old marshal cart could go. He put it in neutral and started down the mountain. Maybe he forgot the sharp turn near the ladies’ tees or he was just too drunk to care, but when he hit the curb, his convertible cart rolled and kept rolling until it reached the bottom. The sides fell off, but remarkably, he stayed inside. Ryan escaped without a scratch. This is how he was and this is why he loved the game of golf. It favored him, like a force that kept him free.