DANCING IN THE DARK

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Through the eyes of alcoholics reality is not seen

Casting down a glass

They choose instead to drink from the bottle

Brightness is sought in the dead of night

Darkness arrives in the morn

When liquid hell permeates the brain

The alcoholic’s intellect mirrors insight

Truth speaks otherwise

 

Unceasing rain batters the windshield making it near impossible to see. The road is dirt, dropping off into ditches on both sides. These trenches are waterways deep enough to swallow any vehicle leaving the road. Darkness is having a dinner party, and the guest list includes disaster; I pray it does not show.

I am awash in fear, voices yell in my head in cadence with water flinging wipers. I am a drunk in need of a drink. The need is three weeks old. Thoughts lurch through brain cells like angry fire flies, they blink, they scold. You desensitized all your relationships, such a fool you are! If you had pictures on the mantle they would only be of you. Your daily life makes nightmares seem like a very peaceful place. Loser is what you are!

His name is Jordan, the man I am driving to see. Jordan has somehow remained sober for thirty-six years and I want what he has. I was given his name at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. AA members tell me sobriety heals the mind. Continuing to drink will insure death, sheer spurning guaranties lunacy. Wild bees begin to swarm inside my psyche, and voices yell in the darkness. Jordan’s log cabin appears between wiper swipes. Pulling in to the drive, I sense something in the back seat and quickly leave the car slamming the door. Walking onto the porch, the door opens without knocking.

“You do know there are two kinds of dry Bobby, and you’re mighty wet; welcome to the cabin, I’m Jordan. Let me take your jacket. Go sit by the fire, I’ll pour us coffee. Nasty night to be driving, did you have any trouble getting here?”

“Never bothered me a bit Jordan, they call me Mr. Tough.”

“A rough dude I see, coffee black?”

“Yeah black is fine.” My shaking hands spill coffee. I set the cup on the barn wood table.

“When was your last drink Bobby?”

“Three weeks ago.”

“You do not need coffee, Mr. Shaky, you need sugar. I keep a jug of orange juice with Karo syrup in the fridge; I’ll pour you a glass.”

“Fine, and don’t call me Mr. Shaky.”

“If you want me to be your sponsor I’ll call you what I damn well please. If you really want to get sober, the first word to learn is acceptance, a day at a time. Now chug down the juice, I’ll pour you another.”

The warmth of the cabin and several glasses of Jordan’s super juice calm me. “Jordan I did not mean to be nasty but it’s the way I am.”

“I was the same way Bobby, took me seven to ten years to unravel the spaghetti in my head.”

“That long! Are you telling me ten years? I’ll be dead in ten years.”

“I’m telling you how long it took me to be completely sober. That does not mean your quality of life lags behind. When I first started attending AA meetings I was completely insane.”

Are you calling me crazy? Don’t you think insane is a bit much?”

“No Mr. shaky, insane is what we are. Consider this; you are in a room with two doors. Behind door one is a three hundred pound guy with a ball bat. Behind door two is a blonde in a Corvette. A drunk will choose door one, get beaten by that bat, over and over and over. That is what we do, every time we take another drink, and yes, it is insanity. How many years have you been drinking?”

“Eleven years old is when I had my first drunk, and now I’m thirty-six, do the math; I cant think.”

“Twenty-five years, twenty-five years of door number one, qualifies as being insane. Bobby, what drove you to AA?”

“I discovered I drank when I did not want to drink. My life is like living in a trash can! I’ve lost my job, wife, kids…but I, I still wanted… no needed to drink.”

“You are powerless over alcohol Bobby; powerless! Your life is unmanageable. If you do not stop drinking, you will die; understand? There is only one way. Make a decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God. If the word God pushes you away from AA, the bottle will push you back. Are you are an alcoholic Bobby?”

“Yes I am I am.”

I begin sobbing, and time seems to stand still. I can feel hate, and resentments clawing their way out. All of the despicable things I have done were flashing through my mind. Seeing the real me without a fake facade is crushing my ego. Pain shaking hands with joy is the most awkward feeling wounding yet healing.

“Go ahead and cry Bobby, just let it out. Everything inside this home stays here.”

For the next hour and a half I pour out my sordid past. Every horrid happening, never divulged to a living soul, lay bare. I had lied about much of the past. The real truth plus lies, having been spun in minds blender, leaving me unable to distinguish between reality and make believe.

“That is all Jordan, the garbage truck is empty; I am ashamed.”

“Don’t be. I’ve heard worse. Now bury it right here, covering it with a shovel; then break the shovel handle so it will never be dug up.” Jordan, pausing for a moment, continues.Have you ever wondered why rear view mirrors are smaller than windshields?”

Never thought about it.”

They allow only a glimpse of what is behind you. Windshields offer a panoramic view of what is in front of you. The point is this; do not dwell in the past live in the present.”

“Is this the meaning of a day at a time?”

“Yes, yesterday is history tomorrow a mystery, just live today. It is going to take sometime but if you stick with me you will have a life that will be beyond belief.”

“How did you stay sober for so long?”

“I keep repeating a quote from the poet Dorothy Parker, which I have turned around; I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy then a bottle in front of me.”

Jordan, reaching into a drawer, retrieves a copy of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is yours Bobby, take it home and read Chapter five. If you feel like taking a drink call me first, I will answer twenty-four seven. Today is Tuesday, I’ll see you at my home group Wednesday at eight PM. Walk slow, and drink lots of orange juice with Karo syrup.”

“Thanks Jordan, will you be my sponsor?”

“Yes, Mr. Shaky, I will.”

As I drive away, I soon realize an unusual feeling is present. One not felt in such a long time I cannot describe it. What is this, this sensation? I begin to cry again, as I identify the lost feeling; it is peace. Smiling with wet eyes I turn on the radio for the first time in years. The song is Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, and I think; I can make it; I can make it a day at a time.

Winds of change in sobriety become puffs

Pouring down from mountains of hope

Storm clouds form not and

Pain no longer travels on currents of regret

ICICLES

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ICICLES

BY

D. Edwin Burbee

It is a winter evening as workers briskly leave an office building to start and brush newly fallen snow from cars. Laughter seasoned with see you tomorrow blends and fades into darkness. One man remains, walking first left then right and stops. “I do not know where I parked my car,” budding fear soon blossoms into terror he checks his pockets. “No keys, no wallet; My God please help me, where am I?” The streets are empty he is completely alone. “I must get home I’ve been gone for weeks but where is home? He begins to run aimlessly, cold air burns lungs as tears freeze on his face.

Icicles captured by a clothesline tinkle lightly softly, played by unseen fingers of breeze. Translucent piano keys suspended necklace-like from the once taunt line perform micro symphonic music. A high-pitched clinking, much like the sound glass objects make when they knock against each other; create a grouping of sounds; a tune. The melody attracts, captivates, and hypnotizes the man rapt by this mellow music and he wonders, “Is this the key that unlocks memory? Will I then know who I am, why am I here, and where should I be?”

Ernie awakes drenched in cold sweat. “Same awful nightmare,” he mumbles, “identical situation every night for weeks” Brewing a tea Ernie’s thoughts go on, Ever since I kissed that airbag my sleep has been disrupted, but all tests show no damage. Amnesia so real so…A ringing phone shatters his thoughts. “Mr. Savage this is Doctor Sweeney’s office confirming your appointment for Wednesday.” “Thank you it’s at one correct?” “Yes, at one.” “I’ll be there.”

Doctor Sweeney is a neurophysiologist. Ernie made the appointment last week. One month ago, Ernie was in a severe car accident, sandwiched between an Acura in the rear and landscaping truck in front. Air bags deployed, and his car was demolished.

“Good afternoon Mr. Savage I’m Doctor Sweeney.” “You can call me Ernie.” “Alright its Ernie then, what is troubling you?” “Nightmares, actually singular as in nightmare every night it is exactly the same.” “Can you tell me the basic content?” “Yes Doctor, I dream I have amnesia it is real, petrifying. I need to go home but I do not know where my car is or make and color. I do not know what city I am in, no money, no suitcase but I must get home.” “Do you know where home is?” “No but the need to quickly get there is overpowering.”

“Ernie I’ve gone over your tests and no physical damage is indicated. It appears the emotional component of the accident, stress and shock may be the reason for this nightmare. What, if anything, do you see?” “A frozen clothes line with icicles hanging and the wind causes them to chime musically. I become enchanted by the sound believing it holds a solution to my amnesia. Yet, all the while, my brain is in turmoil trying to think where my car is, wondering where I am, where am I supposed to be; fear churns inside me. Every time I sleep the nightmare returns, the same. I believe that soon I will not wake up.” Ernie sobs intensely.

“Easy Mr. Savage, relax. I am going to prescribe a mild sedative. I have a few more questions, are you up to it?” Breathing deeply Ernie calms, “I‘ m fine go ahead doctor.” “During this dream are you cold, uncomfortable?” “No, I realize it is cold but I do not feel cold.” “Is there any background, can you see anything else?” It appears to be white all around me.” “Go home and take a sedative and if you need to see me just call. Relax Ernie; we will get to the bottom of this.” “Thank you doctor.”

Ernie leaves Doctor Sweeny’s office. Picking up his sedative he returns home. Washing down a pill with water, stretching out on the sofa, he falls asleep. Awaking at six AM, he is trembling violently in a cold sweat. A riveting thought shocks; I must see Dr. Sweeney, the nightmare changed! 

Ernie returns to the doctor’s office. His appearance conveying the condition within. Wearing the same clothing from the last visit, he is also wearing a vacant stare.

“Sit here Mr. Savage; I’ll have my nurse bring a glass of water. Your phone call suggests the nightmare has changed?” “Yes, the amnestic terror is the same, however as I stare at the icicles I hear a voice calling my name. “Do you recognize the voice?” “No but it sounds like a girl or women.”

“Ernie, are your parents alive?” “No I do not think so; I’m adopted and have no memory of my real parents.” The Doctor leans back in his chair. “At what age were you adopted?” “My earliest memory is being nine years old.” “And you have no recollection of an earlier time?” “No, not at all.” “Do you know what city you were born in or better yet a birth certificate; perhaps the names of your adopted mother and father?” “My adopted parents are both deceased, killed in a fire while I was in college. We lived in Milwaukee; unfortunately, any records were lost in the fire. A social worker told me that my mother lost her life in a plane crash, however I have no knowledge of my father.”

“You need sleep Mr. Savage; I am going to write another prescription for a stronger sedative. I suggest that you go home and attempt to rest. With your permission, I will research records using your Social Security Number to shed some light on your past. I sense having that knowledge may help in uncovering the basis of your problem.” “Yes, of course, Doctor you have my permission. Upon returning home, Ernie takes the stronger sedative collapsing on the couch. Within minutes, he is sound asleep.

Seeing the icicles once again, their charismatic tinkle bewitchingly freezing his stare. Ernest, come inside honey it is too cold and everyone is waiting for the birthday boy. How that boy loves the outdoors, why he would live out there if I didn’t call him in.” “Let him play awhile Millie, he’s well dressed.” “Now Alice, are you trying to tell your sister how to raise her child?” “Land sakes Millie, nothing worse than an over protective mother; Ernest is all boy.” “I know, but he is all I have. When I fly to New York next week just make sure he wears his leggings when outdoors.” “You worry too much honey, Aunt Alice will be in charge, now how about a glass of port on the rocks?”

Glasses are filled with ice and wine while Alice lights the five candles on Ernie’s cake. “Sit on this pillow birthday boy.” Raising drinks in a toast, the ice makes a high-pitched clanking sound and singing begins. “Happy Birthday too you, Happy Birthday too you, Happy Birthday dear Ernest…Happy birthday too you”. Ernie blows out the candles everyone claps and cheers.

“Open your present Ernest, your mother can’t wait.” “Thanks Mommy.” Ernie tares off the wrapping paper revealing a glass globe music box. Inside is a winter scene, a washerwomen is hanging clothes on a line; Icicles hang among clothing. Ernie turns the box on and a tinkling chime-like melody plays…

Jesus loves me this I know For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to him belong They are weak but he is strong

Yes Jesus loves me Oh, yes Jesus loves me Yes Jesus loves me

For the Bible tells me so.

A hospital loudspeaker blares; Cart to room 234…Cart to room 234. A nurse asks an Intern, “What is going on in 234?” “It’s Mr. Savage, Ernest I believe, the guy who was in a car wreck and has been in a coma since. Unfortunately he passed away a short time ago.” The nurse responds, “I often wonder if a person in a comatose condition has the ability to think.”

The intern pauses then replies, “There is no answer to your question but he died with the most pleasant expression on his face.”

MEN’S BEST SHORT STORIES

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AVAILABLE TODAY AT AMAZON.COM AND BARNES & NOBLE

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John Has a Church Nearby

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John Has a Church Nearby

By

D. Edwin Burbee

The road stretching in front of me, its distance grinding down the will to continue is causing hypnotic staring. A plume of red dust, with hues of brown, flour like in texture arrive in my face curbing the distant gaze. Thick wooded pines, like soldiers at attention, stand guard on my right. To the left, fields of weeds appearing as uncombed hair wandering to the horizon speak words inside my head. This is desolation. But this is what you were longing for, isn’t it? Yes it is. I am an alcoholic with 3 months of sobriety. Backpacking in the Adirondack Mountains, retreating from everyone and everything is crucial. Without calluses on my feelings, once numbed with whiskey, being alone keeps sanity tight and close. My name is Ernie.

Thirty-one is too young for a drunkard, I told myself. It is not really a problem, I told myself…Lies, all lies! I took my first drink at six never stopping until May of this year. Every member of my immediate family was alcoholic; may they rest in peace. It is not their fault; “in the blood” says my AA sponsor. The search for an answer brings my distortion to this empty yet beautiful place. What am I looking for? That is mysterious. Pushing me forward is a compelling power, seeking insight just around a distant curve of path. I am a living puzzle, the 1,000 piece size, born containing 999.

The Tongue Mountain Range trail was my choice with lean-tos for overnight camping. The down side is timber rattlers; these are large snakes some approaching five feet. The upside is they are a great source of protein; The Ruger SP101, on my belt, is loaded with snake shot for that purpose. Seeing an unoccupied lean-to in the distance, I stop to set up camp.

Removing my backpack, I hear the sound of footsteps, the voice of a women behind shouts “stopping for a break”.

“Yes, where did you come from”?

I’ve been following you for miles”, she replied. Odd, I thought; wonder why I never saw her? “Are you heading for Brown Mountain, My names Vicky”?

“I’m Ernie; Vicky was my mother’s name, what are the chances”?

“Must be karma”, she quipped.

“Actually, I don’t know where I’m headed, how about you? She did not reply, only smiled.

Then she spoke, “The look on your face plus tone of voice tells me your walking away from somewhere, not to; am I correct”?

“Look, I’m just on a hike are you some kind of seer”?

“Never been called that before, but that’s fairly close” she responded.

“Close, close to what?”

“Ernie lets start a fire and I’ll brew up some tea”.

“OK Ms. Seer, but watch out for snakes”.

“Snakes stay away from me Ernie”.

Fire started and water set to boil we sat down on a log, she spoke first.

“What are you searching for”? Her voice is melodic and when she speaks, a profound peace overwhelms.

“A solution to a problem Vicky, I’m a drunk, been dry since May, seeking a cure or a way to live without booze; make sense?” She poked at the fire. Sparks winking in darkness compliment the unusual feeling of peace.

Pausing a moment, her tuneful voice plays; “inside of everyone’s soul is a door without a knob. Behind that door is a closet with a cloak hanging on a hook. Most think past this door an entire lifetime”.

“Vicky, how do I open this door”?

“You knock and it opens, then you put on the robe. To tap on the door is accomplished by praying the sinner’s prayer”.

“Vicky, what are you some sort of minister”? Again, no reply just a smile.

Alright, what is the robe or cloak for”?

“It is the robe of forgiveness, a complete pardon awaits anyone who knocks and asks the Almighty One to forgive all past sins. Donning the robe marks you as His, gifting eternal life. But the road to life forever is strait not impassable; The Great Spirit will guide you, for you are no longer alone”. Reaching out she placed a stone in my hand. “What is this”, I inquire, and “it feels warm”.

“Ernie this is for you, it is syenite a form of granite. Keep it forever as a reminder of this moment. John has a church nearby, all your answers are there”.

“John, John who”?

She stood placing her hand on my shoulder, “John the Baptist”.

“This Church, how do I find it”?

“Just walk you’ll see…just walk”.

Opening the side flap on my backpack I placed the stone inside. “Thank you Vicky, would you like another cup of tea? Vicky”? She was gone! Looking up and down the trail there was no sign of her; vanishing almost instantly without a sound.

Sitting back down on the log, I begin to cry. Flowing tears of sorrow breach the dam of resentment. Manacles of memories melt instilling peace. The queen of sleep reintroduces herself; drifting, drifting then suddenly sunrise.

At daylight, I leave the lean-to and begin to walk, following an off-shoot path. There is not a thought as to direction, walking excitedly, and just placing one foot in front of the other. When the sun is high, a church steeple comes into view. Reaching the building I read the name, “Fellowship Baptist“.

The Minister greets me at the door. “What can I do for you”?

“I want to pray the sinner’s prayer and be saved” The words come out without thinking.

“At this time, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, follow me”, he directed.

That was 34 years ago. Sobriety and the Great Spirit live within. The syenite rock is still in my pocket. I now know that Vicky is my Guardian Angel and one day we will meet again, only this time I will be wearing the cloak of forgiveness.

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                                        The Stream

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Forcing himself to stand the old man begins shuffling toward the door. A steely burden of loneliness bends his posture. Stepping outside the bitter cold night wets his eyes; mingling with salty tears. Hands, tightly grasping nothing, plunge deep into pockets as he begins walking toward the wood line. Upon entering the blackness of the wood, darkness becomes a shroud severing sense of sight. Distant gurgling of water over rocks becomes the compass followed.

The man knows this place, coming here when the agony of loss is unbearable; as now. Finding the bank of the stream he sits down at its tiny shoreline and weeps. The sobbing is violent, bitter, long.

The tide of time ebbs. Standing, he looks at the stars through open canopy. Diamond lights cascade their distant warmth helping the breeze dry his face. He makes his way back to the house, walking with arms swinging easily.

“I’ll visit her grave early in the morning’ he murmurs, “bringing fresh flowers. Perhaps I’ll add a small shrub, with tiny berries to attract small birds; she so loved the little creatures”. He thought how they would walk through the wood, holding hands and laugh at the burbling sounds of the stream splashing over and around rocks in its bed. The stream, yes the stream performing its magic once again. A loud shrieking, followed by silence, startles the man. “Night creature” he thought. But in the secret darkness it had been the stream itself releasing its newly acquired pain into the cold night.

TALL TALES AND SHORT STORIES

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My book, “Tall Tales And Short Stories,” is available for pre-order now at http://www.blackrosewriting.com/other/tall-tales-and-short-stories.
 
If ordered from Black Rose Writing directly, the book will process and ship very near the release date of June 19, 2014. “Tall Tales And Short Stories” will then become available for sale online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more… typically 1-3 weeks after the release date. Beat the rush and order your copy directly from Black Rose Writing

Anthology of Short Stories available at Books-A-Million

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Included is my work: “RAID ON DOBERMAN CASTLE” . A 15,000 word story of a boy named Ernie and his transition to manhood.