Thump. Bump. Bang. Sixty years collapsed around his feet as if they were a single lump. Merricut was one step inside the front door of the antique shop, an hour-old beer settling within him, his wife Lynette three steps ahead of him.Continue reading “The Rifle by Tom Sheehan”
A Failed Attempt at Method Writing
I recently streamed a documentary about the Stanislavski “school of acting”–aka, “The Method.” Like all other artistic endeavors that get over, there’s a bunch of pretentious pontificating associated with The Method (which first got big in America about seventy-five years ago). Once you get past all the verbiage and “pillars,” the Method is mainly investing your own emotions in a character, to “become” the role you are playing. If the character is supposed to be sad, think of the day your hamster died and act accordingly.
To illustrate this the documentary showed clips of “mannered” performances from the 1930’s–those in which stage-like performances were filmed because talking film acting had yet to be invented. These were compared to James Dean and Marlon Brando emoting. To be honest with you I smelled plenty of ham baking in the early Method film performances. Marlon must have really loved that hamster named “STEEELLLLA!!!” But who am I to criticize?
Anyway, it got me thinking about bringing the Method to writing. I experimented with bringing forward a memory of someone I hated and attempted to use the emotion in fiction.Continue reading “Week 378: A Failed Attempt at Method Writing. And a Successful Saturday Special For Decoration Day”
For these past 70 years, since 1951 in Korea, I have carried a 1000 Won Korean Banknote in my wallet with the signatures of all my squad members on the face of that banknote, our unit being Headquarters section, First Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, when we were deployed on the far side of Lake Hwachon, and when squad members put their signatures on that bank note, given to me by a Korean worker assigned to our unit, Lee Bong Ha. He was a chief figurehead in his own right when he made a replacement crystal for a comrade’s broken watch crystal out of a plastic spoon, which was carried in many military papers under the title of “Time to Spoon.” Lee Bong Ha had been paid off from his government contract with a basketful of such banknotes, and passed them out like the near-useless paper that they were (some of them used for the most unlikely reasons you might think of.)Continue reading “What’s in My Wallet? 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”
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.
As the town announced itself with quick clutter, Greg Mulraney downshifted the Taurus saying it was on its last legs. The floorboards were full of soft threats beneath his feet, metal edges outside and below catching air like a sword causes a draft, a whine, the engine hum hesitant as an offbeat tenor. He saw Pete Leon standing in front of the public house, drink in hand as usual, and thought, Pete looks the same, leathered, liquored, lean, handsome as the long day.
The day’d gone over hill, but light still remained, cut with a gray edge, catching rice paddy corners. In battle’s blue brilliance they’d become comrades, friends, Walko and Williamson and Sheehan, at night drinking beer cooled by Imjin River in August of ‘51 in Korea. Three men clad in rags of war. Stars hung pensive neon. Mountain-cool silences were earned, hungers absolved, ponderous God talked to. Above silence, that God’s weighty as clouds, elusive as windy soot, yields promises. They used church keys to tap cans, lapped up silence rich as missing salt, fused their backbones to good earth in rituals old as labor itself, men clad in rags of war. Such August night gives itself away, tells tales, slays the rose in reeling carnage, murders sleep, sucks moisture out of Mother Earth, fires hardpan, does not die before dawn, makes strangers in one’s selves, those caught wearing rags of war. They’d been strangers beside each other, caught in the crush of tracer nights and starred flanks, accidents of men drinking beer cooled by bloody waters where brothers roam, warriors come to that place by fantastic voyages, by generations of the persecuted or the adventurous, carried in sperm bodies, dropped in the spawning, fruiting womb of America, caught wearing rags of war.
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.
“What the good Jesus!” Pete Tura yelled and disappeared, and as he said it again, his voice muffled, his mouth most likely closed by horse manure, a whole nine yards of it, the bottom of the collection box hanging from the second floor of the Hood’s Milk Company horse barn in West Lynn let go, taking my pal with it. I last saw one arm, not waving goodbye, probably trying to keep the pitchfork from doing him damage. Possibly he had tried to throw it behind him. That innocent weapon of deadly tines was not in sight as I peered down into the mixture of black clutter and hay still settling down with a metronomic slowness you could count.
Harlan counted again: 67 years!
The numbers were bright as they flashed in his head. In all those years he had made every trip to Wiscasset, Maine but one, the time he was in the hospital in McKees Rocks, PA for his coronary by-pass. 67 years to celebrate a death, a heroic death, but a death forever cold, no matter how hard they tried to warm it up.