Goodbye, goodbye

As my editor works on my novel, The Rocky Orchard, I may have been struck with a possible idea for my next book…

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I hated that school.  That hated school in that dreadful town.  That dreadful town in the part of the world where winter was not even winter.  Not the light snowfalls that dusted each twig of each tree and lay spread out across the hills where I had grown up.  Where the tiny footprints of birds and chipmunks and squirrels left their perfect imprints across our yards.  In this feckless land, winter was nothing more than an endless gray sky that spit intervals of drizzle.  The drizzle froze on the ground, making the school an ugly and hazardous wasteland of ice.  A wasteland that tripped us and made us fall down and spit on us as we lay on the ground.

A year so bad that I passed the time mainly by drinking too much.  A year so bad that I got an ungodly amount of pleasure from barfing out the window of my fourth-floor dormitory room.  I didn’t plan this, and was likely too far gone in my misery to have thought of such a magnificent metaphor.  I had drunk most of a bottle of Southern Comfort and was, quite simply, too drunk to make it to the bathroom.  Being that drunk also meant, as it turned out, that I could not lean my head very far out of the beautiful Gothic window without losing my balance.  I held on to each side of the window frame to steady myself and leaned my chin on the sill.  Hence, the vomit cascaded down the entire length of the side wall, where the winter temperatures froze it in place.

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And where it remained for a very long time.  A slight warming of the temperature, or a sleety mix, would cause sections of the whole to rain down, creeping its way through the brick and ivy as the mass oozed farther down the wall.  Sometimes, a larger chunk would break off all at once and hit the ground below.  I checked my vomit every day, as if it were a pet, as if it were something precious whose care was my honor and responsibility.  By early spring, the last vestiges of the only Southern Comfort I would ever drink were gone.

I wanted to leave so much that I had been counting down the days, making large X’s on an enormous wall calendar like a child marking the time until Christmas, or the end of a school year with a teacher whose dislike of teaching was only surpassed by their hated of children.

It was my last night on campus.  All I wanted to do was say goodbye.  Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.  It was time; it was finally time.  I had nothing left to do but take my victory lap around the campus and hug hug kiss kiss the assorted souls who had weathered the winter of my discontent along side of me.  I was gleeful.  I was drunk.  I was pressed for time.

I could not find my friend Patrick.  John hadn’t seen him.  Sandy hadn’t seen him.  Brent had seen him earlier, but…. Charlie said, yeah, he was just here. I’m pretty sure he’s in the bathroom.  As I mentioned, I was drunk.  And pressed for time.  I flung open the door to the men’s bathroom on the floor of his dormitory, and found Patrick unzipped and just beginning to eject an impressively forceful stream from what seemed to me, having little to no experience here, to also be an impressive distance from the target.

Patrick turned his head at the recognition of my voice, as I began the delivery of my goodbye message.  Then the overall nature of the situation seemed to occur to him, as he registered – in rapid succession – shock, surprise, perplexity, amusement, and all-out mirth, as evidenced by an open-mouthed belly laugh.  My own emotions, amazingly enough, ran much the same gamut, but in reverse, as Patrick had continued to pee an enormous, unwavering stream the entire time that I had been talking and he had been laughing.

I was amazed, and felt like it was one of the most interesting and significant and noteworthy things that had happened to me in that entire year.  I remarked on this to Patrick, who continued to both laugh AND PEE.  A small crowd had gathered in the men’s bathroom, as word passed about this event; so there was, in fact, a group of people watching me watching Patrick Killarney pee while I said my last goodbye.  He zipped up and we hugged and I practically skipped back to my room knowing I would leave this awful world behind me the next morning.

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How was I to know that forty-five years later, Patrick Killarney would tell me that I had changed the course of his life.

 

 

“Is It Possible to Fracture Your Penis?” NEW from the novel “Pushing the River”

 

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a reminder to my family and friends with wild imaginations: this is FICTION

She didn’t think about Dick as often as she used to, which struck Madeline as remarkable.

But when she did think of him, she often thought of his…boomerang.

She had long heard the giggles and rumors from the mutual friends who ultimately introduced the two of them. They saw each other every day for two weeks after the evening of their meeting, their words becoming so much chicken scratch, background noise, to a deepening enchanted spell that took hold of them both. Still, in their demure newness, she took the first shower – separately – then waited while he took his. When the sound of the running water ceased, Madeline was unable to wait a second longer.

She opened the bathroom door to an entirely pink-tiled world heavy with steam. Dick pulled back the shower curtain, wiping the water from his eyes, and opened his arms to her.

When she pulled back from their embrace and took his hand to lead him to her bed, there it was. Her eyes widened. “It’s my boomerang,” Dick said.

“Because it always comes back to you? No matter where it’s been?” she said.

Dick laughed. “No. Because that’s what I call it.”

The dazzling sun of the summer afternoon dimmed to dusk and then to dark before Madeline and Dick uttered their next words. “So. Boomerang. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

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Dick laughed and kissed her on the temple. “It got broken.”

“Oh, stop. That’s not possible.”

“Obviously it is. Possible.”

It was many years before the internet. Many years before Madeline was able to type the words “broken penis” into the google search bar and get the following from the Mayo Clinic website:

Is it possible to fracture your penis?

Answers from Landon Trost, M.D.

Yes. Although rare, penis fracture can occur when there is trauma to an erect penis.

During an erection, the penis is engorged with blood. If an engorged penis is bent suddenly or forcefully, the trauma can rupture the lining of one of the two cylinders in the penis (corpus cavernosum) responsible for erections — resulting in a penis fracture. The trauma most often occurs after accidental injury during intercourse, but can also occur due to aggressive masturbation or taqaandan, a cultural practice in which the top of an erect penis is forcefully bent.

A penis fracture is a painful injury. Signs might include a cracking sound, immediate loss of the erection, or the development of dark bruising of the penis due to blood escaping the cylinder. Sometimes the tube that drains urine from the body (urethra) is damaged as well, and blood might be visible at the urinary opening of the penis.

A penis fracture requires urgent medical attention. The injury can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam, and prompt surgical repair is typically recommended.

Left untreated, a penis fracture might result in deformity of the penis or the permanent inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sex (erectile dysfunction).

At the time, however, Madeline only knew what she had seen. And experienced.

“Does it hurt?” she asked. “Do I need to worry about hurting you?”

“Not at all,” he said.

She giggled, then said, “I’m sorry to laugh. You broke your penis!”

It wasn’t so funny when it happened. It hurt like a mother. And I heard it break.”

“You’re kidding?!” Madeline said. “What in the world happened?!” Dick took a breath in preparation to answer, but Madeline took her index finger and held it to his lips. “No, wait. Don’t tell me. No history. Not right now. Just this moment. Just the two of us. And Boomerang.”

boomerang construction

Tragically Unhip, Tales from Logan Square

Subject re-opening of the Logan Theater, owner Mark Fishman renovated the  theatre with a soft opening on March 17 2012. CCB Life.

I said to my daughter, “Once I’ve been out and about in my new hood for a while, such as we are now, I begin to feel like I am inappropriately un-dyed, un-pierced, and un-inked.”

She looked around the cafe for a minute and said, “Well, not everyone is dyed.” Then she added, as if this were sure to make me feel better somehow, “but everyone is also about 30 years younger than you are.”

I have done it. I have gotten myself moved out of my home of 32 years in the suburb/small town/social experiment by the lake known as Evanston; and I have relocated to a lovely apartment in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. The move was, and still is, a roller coaster combination of wrenching myself away and fleeing with unfettered glee. I said to my friend the other day: “it’s kind of like when you break up with someone after a long-term relationship, and you know that person is totally not right for you. So even though you don’t miss them, there are things that you miss about being in a relationship.

I have begun a new relationship, and feel all the thrill and trepidation and mystery and hope that entails. Here’s the thing: Logan Square does indeed have its share of hipsters, meaning street corners filled with plaid shirts, one pant leg rolled up, huge sunglasses, ink sleeves, ink calves, top knots, and forgodssake, little babies in strollers wearing fedora hats. I am an open-minded and tolerant person, but that is just wrong. Babies are supposed to wear giant, floppy, silly sunhats while they are still too young to protest, not giant sunglasses and fucking fedoras.

Another thing that requires an adjustment on my part is the beard situation. A high percentage of men walking around are sporting extremely long, scraggly, Duck-Dynasty worthy facial hair. In other words, they look very much like my son did when he walked out of the woods and into my sobbing arms after his 5-month backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. His sister, who hiked the Trail with him, looked fit and pink-cheeked and aglow with good health. My son, on the other hand, was doing an outstanding impression of a starving, homeless person – an impression that was greatly enhanced by the beard and the fact that mice had been chewing holes in his stocking cap, not to mention his frightening thinness.

It required a great deal of will to restrain myself from my desire to force feed him continually for the next couple of months while he returned to his normal size. Anyway, this is a problem now because I’ve clearly developed a weird association in my mind between long, scraggly beards and starving. I know it’s not cool when I run into my next-door neighbor (on his bike, all inked up, beard wafting in the breeze) and mention to him that I just got back from the grocery store if he’d like me to dig out a few cookies.

I, as it turns out, am tragically unhip.

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