These days, you’re the only Townie I would know on sight as you grace our Riverside Cemetery in your own hellos, tall as all get-out, robust, time marking your way past that mere issue, and a charmer from a distance on any day of the week. I wish, among other issues and dreams, that you’d recognize me, wrap those loving arms around me, greet the passing among all these stones, upright, neat in place, fighting off the centuries one by one.Continue reading “Charlestown Calling Back by Tom Sheehan”
Moments linger, trapped in thought. Two things right, then one thing not:
I’m a ghost.
Ghosts live in the memories of those that they touched.
It doesn’t hurt to die.
As all of earth once growled and gnarled its way to an instant conflagration, a calamitous roar, all its gears beginning to shift, in the near-middle of the last century, Saugus, Massachusetts, a small town just north of Boston, started to empty its bedrooms… the ones in the attic, in the space out over the garage, third floor second door on the left, the bedrooms facing on the pond or the cemetery or those looking broadly down on the wide marshes or quickly down on quiet Cliftondale Square. The bedrooms where boys cruised into manhood, almost overnight at that.Continue reading ” The Quiet, Empty Bedrooms of Saugus by Tom Sheehan “
Sixty-six years now and they come at me, in Chicago, Crown Point, Indiana, by phone from Las Vegas.
I tell them how it happened, long after parting, one night when I was in a bar, thinking of them all.Continue reading “Once Screamed to Drunks at the Vets Bar, Memorial Day Evening by Tom Sheehan”
Long and lanky and always of a dark eye, ever adept at study of any kind, Wingsy held a broad maple leaf aloft, with fine fingers at the end of one long thin arm, against an angle of penetrating August sunlight. To a young friend he pointed out the webbing of shadowed filaments. As he pointed out the leafy veins, he spoke in an instructive manner, yet indirectly, as if for the moment he had but half interest, which was somewhat unlike him. Interest was something he had a facility of generating, no matter the subject.
The cold, not a storm loaded with snow, but the cold in burrowing waves, came sweeping down the valley just north of the Yalu River. Vatcher Sexton McKee, sergeant of infantry, as cold as he’d ever been in his life, could not hold the pencil in his hand. He’d already broken the lead point three times, but only worried about handling the rifle, managing the trigger when called upon, his latest letter home to be finished at an hour less demanding.
Earl Chatsby, six years ceased being a father for real, felt an odd distinction coming into his place of being. The newspaper for the moment loomed an idle bundle in his lap the way it stayed weighty and rolled and unread. Walls of the kitchen widened, and the room took in more air. He could feel the huge gulp of it. The coffee pot was perking loudly its 6 AM sound and the faucet drip, fixed three nights earlier at Melba’s insistence, had hastened again its freedom, the discord highly audible. Atop the oil cloth over the kitchen table the mid-May sun continued dropping its slanting hellos, allowing them to spread the room into further colors. Yet to this day he cannot agree to what happened first, the front porch shadow at the window coming vaguely visible in a corner of his eye, a familiar shadow, or the slight give-away trod heard from the porch floor, that too familiar, the board loose it seemed forever and abraded by Melba’s occasional demands to fix it.
I could picture what it would be like if we met again all these years later. It might go down like this: After 670 miles of a pretty cross country haul, I’d see the meeting-place pub we’d picked sitting brown and ugly like a hovel at the side of the road, a meeting place for the century, out there in some square, hard country setting. And I’d brace myself for comrades, the long stretch between get-togethers, wondering what the hard stuff would do to me this time. Undoubtedly it would leave tracks again.
I closed my eyes, wondering all over again. I hoped Balbo would be in there and Diaz. I hoped Archie’d be in there, red in the face, after his fifth visit, his third wife, his second hospital stay, counting his visits, keeping the tab at his elbow, paying it with no fanfare at all, sometimes embarrassed by his own quick acceptance of it, owing somebody, always owing somebody in this crazy life.
I sit up in bed when I see the headlights of a car arc at the end of the driveway, pause for a second over the mailbox, and then stop in front of my house. I reach across the bed to wake Susan before I remember she’s not there. Mine is the last house on a rural cul-de-sac in upstate New York. Sometimes in the summer, late at night, I get kids making out or drinking beer at the end of the road and if they make too much racket I walk up with a flashlight and ask them to move along. But it’s early morning, the week before Christmas, the kind of dry cold air that pinches your nose shut in the time it takes to check the mailbox. No one is drinking a 40-ouncer this morning. The newspaper guy used to drive by at this time of morning and slide a paper into the box, but I cut that off six months ago, when Dylan deployed. Some things you don’t want to know about. The headlights extinguish, and I can see the glint of the car chrome in the early morning moonlight. I slip my feet over the side of the bed, find my LL Bean moccasins, wrestle into a flannel robe, and turn on the light to go downstairs.
I’d lost a brother and remember the headlines, newsreels, songs of bond-selling, gas-griping, and movies too true to hate, the settings of World War II. Those days found the whole Earth bent inwards, imploding bombs, bullets, blood, shrieking terrible bird cries in my ears only deepest sleep could lose if it ventured close.