When Michael Keene reached the interstate, a few blocks from his home, he turned left instead of right and headed south, steering his nifty little gray Honda Civic against the direction a group of geese were flying overhead. Thinking he might hear the honkers, he opened the window of the car, but they were too high, ormaybe the wind carried their calls away from his ear. Or maybe they just were traveling silently, as was he.
Later, on that chilly morning in April, when Mrs. Keene received the call from the office asking if her husband was ill, she first thought of an accident, then car trouble, then foul play, then desertion. She should have thought first of desertion because when Mr. Keene didn't show up the next day or the one after that, the police investigator put on a smile deep with practiced kindness as she mentioned the possibility that Mr. Keene had been kidnapped and said, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, I've seen this before. Were you having any marital problems?"
Children who grew up on military bases are called Army brats. Asylum brats were those few of us who grew up on the grounds of state insane asylums where our parents, who worked there, had housing provided by the state. We weren't shoved from base to base, state to state, country to country, so we couldn't claim we didn't put down roots. Instead, we were buffeted between the bizarre personalities among whom we lived, if we chose to know the lives of those mostly benign inmates–excuse me, patients–from whose lunacy our parents earned their livings
Bob Crowley, drunk and very tired, almost tripped over the broken toy truck before kicking it out of his way then trudging around the side of the house to the back of a former duplex that now housed six families of 50-some Christian souls. Work on the Great Christian State of Kansas Cathedral went on from dawn to dusk, almost a 14-hour, hot, summer day. After Bob had made the long climb back to the ground, he stopped at one of the small booze-holes at the edge of Rabbletown to drink its oily-smelling, stomach-wrenching, blessedly mind-numbing alcohol before going home.
Now, in the doorway to his basement apartment, he burped and smelled the sour acid of his empty stomach. Pulling the burlap sack of tools off his shoulder and dropping it to the floor when he entered, the noise of his own household assaulted him. The twins came, screaming their welcome, and he picked the bag of tools back up, swung, and caught one of them on the side of the head, sending him sprawling sideways and setting up a wail of tears and pain that caused his wife to yell, “Stop beatin’ the kids, will ya?”
“Well keep the little retards away from me.”
At seven-thirty on a fresh, cool Monday morning in the forty-fifth spring of his life, under a sky the blue of which General Motors used for its 1957 Chevrolet, the Rev. Christopher Talley looked into the trunk of his BMW, aimed his thick, index finger at the objects stored neatly away, and stuck up his thumb.
"Bang," he said, as he pointed his finger at the portable typewriter, depressed his thumb, and heard the knuckle crack. He shifted to take aim at a stack of reference books, and then in rapid order went "bang, bang, bang, bang," at the dictionary, the thesaurus, the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer. Father Talley aimed the finger next at the large, expandable file and, with the loudest mental bang of them all, blasted that well-worn cardboard structure and all of the pieces of paper the damn thing contained.
He thought about pointing the finger at his own head, but reached down instead to caress the fly rod case, pat the tackle box, and run his hand across the stack of journals on studies into ancient Greece he had bound together with cord. He closed the trunk lid, listening to its satisfyingly solid click.
This side of the hill on Betty's land looks to the west. She built her house on the other side that looks to the east. Her windows catch the morning sun and then are shaded from the heat of the afternoon summer sun. The house is tucked real neat into the hill so that north winds in winter hit the rise of the hill, go over, never touch the house.
Would that I were so protected.
But it is late fall, late in the day and I am standing on the balcony of this tea hut I have built on the side of Betty's hill that faces the west. I get to enjoy the sight of sunset over the last of the leaves still on the trees and listen to the sounds they make as the wind rustles through. Listen to the sounds of me.
Oh, Betty, I love you so.
Why has it taken me so long to know it.
So long to say it.
I had to leave the 1960s first.
It wasn't easy.
In the box on the table inside this tea hut you don't even know exists on your own land is my deliverance from those times. God, how I hate to leave them. It was hard work.
You'll just have to read and find out how hard.
Everything is ready now for that....Everything is ready.