It was late my freshman season, a roadie in Baltimore, the first time I saw coach go that completely off the rails—eyes bugging out all pink and blue and shaking like baby rattles, face shining and tomato-red, and this vein, big as your finger, bulging down his forehead.
Now I’d seen him plenty pissed before, like the time I snuck a teeny sliver of soap into his post-practice whirlpool session, which ejected suds all over the training room and put naked coach slippy-sliding onto his ass after a performance like Bambi on ice.
“You motherf—ers better have come to play tonight and don’t embarrass yourselves in front of this crowd, because they will eat you for f—–g lunch and run your asses back to Syracuse,” he screamed and pounded his fist into his hand again and again.
After another ten minutes of chalktalk-less ranting, screaming, sweating and more profanity laced with face-to-face accusations of certain Oedipal freakishness, he croaked out, “Now go out there and tear a new asshole into those motherf—ers,” spun on his heel and nearly tore the locker room door off its hinges as he stormed the court.
I guess I was still kind of bug-eyed when I looked over at our trainer, Buddy Larocque, poking his head like a gopher above the pile of towels in his arms, where he’d been smothering a laugh, as he said, “Get used to three more of these kid…he always goes off like this every year when we play here in front of his mom.”
I’m not really sure if it was watching Coach Jim Boeheim’s recent wig out at Virginia or remembering my old football coach in college (I actually did the soap bit to a senior who treated us freshman like you-know-what) that brought forth this quickie in response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, Furious.
Just as McCain ambled into its circle of light, Jenkins spit into the campfire and didn’t look up as he said, “Ya heerd about ol’ Stonewall?”
McCain poured steaming chicory coffee into his tin cup and said, “’Course, after the accident where some of our boys mistook his party in the dark for Yanks, tragic misunderstanding, an’ sawbones hadda take his right arm and I heerd he’s doin’ some better.”
“Well I jest heerd ol’ Blue Light took a turn Saturday an’ died of the pee-numonia this afternoon,” Jenkins said, still staring into the flames.
“Lord, no…that such a gallant man who pushed our asses to those great victories in the Valley—Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic, all in jus’ two weeks–should be kilt accidently by his own boys who thought his party was Yanks!”
“Yep,” McCain said, sending another sizzling spit into the fire, “an’ I was there at Front Royal, where my brother lost a leg, an’ at Winchester, where I was nipped in the ribs, an’ at Cross Keys, where Lanny Beachem jus’ disappeared, and at Port Republic where the Federals killed my pa, and there in the moonlight at Chancellorsville…and whadda ya mean ax-ee-dintly?”
Dipping into my penchant for American history again, and maybe a little conspiracy, in response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, Misunderstanding.
Vintage Coffee Pot – Gold (Photo credit: Ann Douglas)
An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship.
Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.
I am a vessel, probably more empty than filled,
not a glass holding a metaphysical question of fullness,
but more a coffee pot with a permanently stuck-on top.
My contents will pour, if I decide to share,
but it will be damned difficult for you to share yours,
if I decide to let you share. I’ve never gone dry,
though I’ve known more dregs in my heart
than overflowing sloshes.
To slosh connotes a messy decanting
and I am careful to be free yet neat in that
which I share. I locked on my top a long time ago,
not to keep all to myself, but to keep yours to yourself,
your splashes of vitriol, anger, acrid and sour.
I have enough of my own poison settled there
at the bottom of this tin pot, dented by time.
But, please, if you wish to mingle the nectar
of kindness, love, and peace with my poor pour,
I shall turn absolutely acrobatic to help you.
I shall respond with the cream of all I am
if you wish to mingle with the remains
of this old vessel, this heart, scarred
and still more empty than filled.
I wrote this free-write poem in response to a prompt from my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday for June 29, 2013. This week she asked us to write something inspired (and you never know where inspiration might take me) by the quote at the top of this piece. So there you are.
I stopped trying to be who
the world always wanted me to be—
pliant, compliant, the good boy,
and the better man.
With age I see why
I’ve hated the effort I made
to color within everyone else’s lines.
Inside, I’m trying to be
cold and dark and
— just to be me —
I keep all those beans
we’re supposed to count
in alphabetic order.
This is my life, my obsession,
and I’ll keep it the way that I want.
That’s who I am, for better or worse.
No partners, no bliss, self-service.
Deal with it.
Oh, excuse me, did you drop this?
The North Tower after the fall of the South.
(Photo: Lyle Owerko)
The night of my forty-ninth birthday,
I pulled the covers over a part
of my life I knew was ending.
The next morning would be the first
on the path to my autumn,
when everything about life would change.
I awoke to a morning sky
of such infinite azure beauty,
so clean of cloud and worry
that I made a forever memory of it,
something I could carry
in my gray remaining years.
Mercilessly, my memory sky
was smeared by flame and smoke,
by dust and tears.
And soon I realized the selfish dread
I hid behind sleepy eyes
the night of that September 10
would haunt me for all my days.
Always, I’ll feel a sting in my eyes
when I think of that
last blue sky of summer.
(Photo by Lyle Owerko, New York Magazine.)