Saturday, March 08, 2014

At the Top of the Hill

                                         AT THE TOP OF THE HILL
                                                        By Doc Walton

An ice blue sky still as stone rests above the small rural hospital as Jack pushes through the fog and begins to regain his senses.  Unaware of winter bleak and cold outside, his eyes open slowly but his focus lags.  Soft humming and beeping sounds play their tuneless notes around him and Jack strains to grasp their meaning.  A blur of intermittent color registers against a pale backdrop.  Jack’s head hurts like hell and the room’s brightness is hindrance, not help.  He wants to close his eyes and go back to wherever he had been, that quiet, painless place, but first, he tells himself, I better figure out what's going on.  He pushes to a sitting position with an effort that triggers swirling pain and instant nausea.  He snaps his eyes shut and remains still for what seems an eternity of waiting for the comets of hurt to cease streaking through his skull.  When at last he is able to reopen his eyes he does so in increments, a tiny bit at a time, adjusting to the light little by little.  Consciousness and clarity return with his vision.  He is in a bed, in a hospital.  But what in God's name has happened to him?  He brings a hand to his forehead and feels heavy bandages there.  Alright, he thinks, I've taken a blow.  But how had it happened?  Across the empty bed to his left a window is cut into the whiteness of the hospital wall.  Jack’s gaze rests there.  Icicles hang outside the glass.  Icicles.  Icicles telling him something.  His memory is beginning to come back, to sharpen.  Icicles.  Icicles.  Ice!  And there it is: Ice.  He had fallen.  He had slipped and fallen and he had slid out of control.  Faster and faster.  He couldn't stop.  She was there too.  Sliding along with him.  A huge rock loomed.  A boulder projecting from the snow.  He couldn't stop.  And then there was nothing.  Until now.
Entering the room, a nurse sees Jack and says, "Well look who's up.  You gave us a real scare young man.  You took one serious bump to the noggin there.  How do you feel?"
Jack ignores the question and asks one of his own. "How long have I been out?"
"Three days counting this one, but that's not important,” the nurse answers.  “You're back and that's the main thing.  I've got to go find your Doctor.  He will want to see you right away.  Try not to move much until we get back."  She scurries from the room.
Fully conscious now, vague memories return and Jack struggles to access them.
Pipes frozen and bursting.   No water to the farm.  Juice and milk for the family and even a few bottles of water in the fridge, but not nearly enough for the animals.  He and his sister sent by his parents to fetch some from the old well at the top of the hill that had been there for ages before his family bought the place. 
It had been slow going up the steep, slippery hill carrying empty pails, but impossible with full ones coming down, so of course they had fallen.  The whole thing was a bad idea.  And why would anyone put a well at the top of the hill in the first place?  You would just have to dig deeper to find the water and it would always be a chore to go there.  It was crazy, Jack thought, crazy.
He looks up then as another person enters the room.  It is his sister Jill.  She has a clunky looking cast on her arm but doesn’t seem to mind.  She is all smiles.


Friday, January 10, 2014


Sometimes I wonder how I do what I do to my side of the bed during the night.  I awake to chaos and disorder, quilt and sheets a-jumble, pillow cases separated from pillows that have often tumbled their way to the floor. What manner of beast have I battled and defeated during the night - for surely I have won else why would I awaken - that leaves the battlefield in such disarray? 

And there, mind you, not but inches away, Woowoo Charly's side of the bed remains unscrambled. There is harmony and grace there, a sense of stillness and serenity.  It is as if the Dove of Peace has alighted upon her side and brought tranquility and calm. Barely a rumple remains when Charly arises to greet the morn.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Another Christmas Story

                        ANOTHER CHRISTMAS STORY
                                  By Doc Walton

   I stopped in front of, then sat on, the park bench for really no reason at all.  I had passed it by dozens of times before on the walk from my place to Governor's Park Restaurant and it had never quite entered my conscious mind.  Park benches, I thought now, were for people with spare time.  This day was proving different, though, perhaps even predestined.
   Anyway, I sat there on this snow covered, winter day and I watched as a modestly clad, bearded younger man approached my bench from the winding park path.  He had very intense eyes and as he neared they locked on mine in such a way that I was unable to look elsewhere.  Despite his fierce eyes the man's manner was somehow reassuring and not at all threatening.  He walked up and found a place beside me on the bench.
   "Jesus!"  I said.
   "That's me."  He said
   "What are you doing here?" I asked with the accent heavily on the "you."
   "Nice to meet you too," he replied with just a hint of grin.
   "Sorry," I said, sticking out my hand, "I'm..."
   "I know who you are," he interrupted, which was okay with me, him being the son of God and all that.  "You're part of the reason I'm here."
   "Me?"  I blurted, "Me?  What did I do?"  Dumb question, I thought.  He could probably recite a long list.  But on second thought I knew the list couldn't be much worse than most people's and had to be a lot better than some.
   "I'll get right to the point," he said very sincerely, looking me straight in the eyes.  "I'm getting a little tired of your lack of Christmas spirit and your lame jokes about celebrating Santa Claus' birthday and the whole bah humbug routine.  I want you to get off it.  I want you to cut it out right now."

day Scrooge jokes.  It was probably time to stop.  But...there was something in his tone I didn't quite like; something a little too righteous and a wee bit pushy.
   "Okay," I said, my voice rising, "I'll knock it off if you quit ignoring all the bad stuff that is going on down here."
   I could tell by his change of expression that he didn't like the way this was playing out.  I imagined he was used to various degrees of awe when he spoke to mortals and I wasn't giving him any.  I could see he was getting a little miffed because he grabbed my lapels, leaned towards me, and whispered through clenched teeth, “What I do down here is none of your business.  What is your business is to do what I tell you or you could end up very badly, if you get my drift.”
   This was going too far.  I hate being threatened.  I could feel my adrenaline at all those fight or flight spots.  I knew he wasn’t bluffing and he could surely punch my ticket to hell, but I just couldn’t stop myself.  I brought up both forearms hard and fast, breaking his grip on my lapels, and then, don’t ask me why, let’s just say the Devil made me do it, I followed with a good, stiff slap to his cheek.  He fell back a little, his eyes wide with astonishment.  He measured me for what seemed like a long moment and then getting very still, very composed… he calmly turned the other cheek.
   Well what would you do?  What I did probably wasn’t the best thing, but you know, it was like he was teasing me, daring me.  I couldn’t help it.  I threw the left with everything I had, fully expecting to get zapped by a lightning bolt or something like that.  What I didn’t expect was his right arm coming up to block the punch and his own left landing squarely in the center of my forehead, knocking me off the bench and onto the snow.  I had barely enough wits when he leaped at me to get my knees up and flip him to the side where we both grabbed each other and began rolling over and over in the snow trying to gain an advantage.  We did this for awhile with neither of us getting anywhere and I was beginning to tire when through the grunts of effort I heard a sarcastic voice ask loudly, “Are you boys about finished?”
   I looked up and saw the familiar blue uniform of one of Denver’s finest.
   “Oh, sorry Officer,” I sputtered, spitting snow while letting go of my adversary who jumped to his feet along with me.  “My friend and I were just...” I was drawing a blank. “My friend and I were just…frolicking!” I said, happy that something popped into my head even if it was “frolicking.”  I was still a tad dizzy. 
   The officer looked at Jesus, looked at him a long time like someone trying to remember a face before asking him, “Is that your story too?”
   Jesus looked right back at the cop with that intense eyes thing he does while I stood there mentally weighing the difference between jail food and Dante’s Inferno and realizing that both seemed likely in my near future.  To my great surprise, JC’s face lit with a huge grin the likes of which you have never seen in Bible pics, and starting to laugh he said, “That’s absolutely right, Officer, we were just frolicking, you know frolicking.”  He seemed to like saying the word.
   The cop, however, was not amused.  He growled “I want the both of you out of this park five minutes ago.  You get what I’m saying?”
   I put my arm around JC’s shoulder and headed him down the path away from our blue suited pal who was left muttering something about all the weirdos being on his beat
   “You know,” I said, turning to look at the son of the Big Guy to make sure I wasn’t mistaken and I wasn’t, “Guv’s Park Tavern is just down the block a bit, can I buy you a beer?”
   “Sure,” he said with that shiny grin still all over his face, “but if you don’t mind, I prefer wine.”
   “No problem,” I said, and then added, “Say Jesus, I’m sorry about that thing back there.  I mean, I was way out of line.”
   “Nah,” he said, putting his arm around my shoulder too, so that we walked along like a couple of navy buddies on shore leave, “I was coming on much too strong.”
   And that is really all there is to tell.  Some time and several beers later I left JC at the bar where he was amusing patrons and annoying the bartender with his never empty wine glass trick.  I still don’t know for sure if he is all he is cracked up to be, but I guess I’ll find out someday.  I do know that he means well, he’s over two thousand years old, and he throws a damn - I mean darn – fine left hand! 
   So Happy Birthday Big Guy’s kid and Merry Christmas to everyone else.

Doc Walton
December 1999  


                                BOOK LIST 2013

1.  Edson, el mudo.  (Edson the mute.)    Meadow Castle    Read in Spanish   Western novella about a quiet gunfighter who saves the town he grew up in from a ruthless gang and in the process finds love.

2.  The Jewels of Paradise   Donna Leon  No Inspector Brunetti in this one.  The book could have used him.

3.  In One Person    John Irving    Bisexual man lives his life.   Interesting, but not among Irving’s best.

4.  The River Swimmer   Jim Harrison   Two novellas.   Harrison never fails to deliver good stuff.

5.  Fobbit   David Abrams   Behind the scenes look at Army Press Corp in Iraq.  Muscular prose, believable dialog, interesting fast read.

6.  JFK and the Unspeakable   James Douglas   My highest recommendation!  Read this book!

7.  The Tenth of December   George Saunders   Often odd, but always intriguing short stories.

8.  The Extra Large Medium   Helen Slavin    Entertaining tale of a woman who sees, hears, and speaks to the dead.

9.   Tortuado por el Deseo  (Tortured by Desire)  Amanda McIntyre  Read in Spanish  Bodice ripper set in pre history Britain.  Sex, violence, true love and revenge all happen along the way to restoring the rightful king to the throne. 

10.  The Golden Egg  Donna Leon  Inspector Brunetti unravels the mystery surrounding the death of a seemingly deaf and retarded man. The conclusions reached are chilling.

11.  Mortality   Christopher Hitchens   Chris writes about dying of cancer and makes it interesting and readable.  Helluva writer!

12.  Lucky Jim    Kingsley Amis   Great self deprecating British character at work in love and academia.

13.  Dominion    Matthew Scully   The most comprehensive argument for the ethical treatment of  animals most likely ever written.  And beautifully done at that.  My highest recommendation.

14.  La Espuela De Plata (The Silver Spur)  Marcial Lafuente  Read in Spanish  A not very good western novella with a difficult to follow plot – if there was one at all – that featured a six foot six fast draw gunfighter who does in a lot of people on his way to revenge…something. 

15.   The Color of Magic   Terry Pratchett   An imaginative fantasy world, well done, but not my cup of tea.

16.  A Visit from the Goon Squad.  Two and a half, maybe three stars.

17.  Moist    Mark Haskell Smith   Entertaining romp with the Mexican Mafia in California.  Sex and violence craftily told.

18.  The Shanghai Factor   Charles Mccarry   Entertaining espionage tale lacking only a more boffo ending from being great. 

19.  Navides Tragicas   Agatha Christie  Read in Spanish  Hercule Poirot does his thing after a holiday murder.

20.  Las tias Buenas   Silver Kane   Read in Spanish.  Women and gun play.  Good stuff.

21.   Flight Behavior    Barbara Kingsolver   Nice character study of a bright woman in a not very bright circumstance.

22.  Man Upstairs and Other Stories  P.G. Wodehouse   Fun short stories.  A couple of them real gems.

23.  The Dinner   Herman Koch   A complex scenario plays out over a long dinner.  Well told.

24.  Beautiful Ruins   Jess Walter   Beautiful book, beautifully written. 4 stars.

25.  Pacific    Tom Drury   Quirky characters doing quirky things.  Fun.

26.  The Plague of Days   Robert Chazz  Surprisingly compelling apocalypse story.  First book of a series.  (This book just appeared on my Kindle from I know not where or when.)

27.  The Winds of Change    Martha Grimes   Inspector Drury and Melrose Plant wrap up a couple of mysteries.  Good.. Stuff.