Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tic Toc

                Hello my Dear Reader, this is my last blog of 2012. To say this year has been rough is an understatement.  It has been one shit-storm after another for months with little or no light on the horizon.  And, it doesn’t appear there is an end of this excrement-tsunami for quite some time.  The only thing I have to look forward to is endless hours of exhaustive work to fill my days and nights with a pittance of spackle to shore up the impending deluge of unwanted phone calls and knocks on doors which will fill my future with fear and desperation.
                Now, don’t read that paragraph a pity party, it isn’t. It is an explanation of what is going on, how I feel and one of the reasons I have not been paying too much attention to my blog or my creative writing. My life seems to get in the way of me doing the things which I enjoy, like writing. And since my mind is so easily distracted by worries, even when I am sitting on my porch, my couch or even at my desk with the industrial plastic keys under my fingertips, my creativity suffers due to my mind trying to distract itself from the uncertainties which plague me like an old testament plague.
                I know I am not alone in this; I know all of us are battling the unseen forces of life which make daily living difficult. This brings a certain level of comfort to me, because we all seem to be in this struggle together. But that comfort is fleeting because my own problems, just like your problems, overshadow my concern for others. Just as mine issues are but a fleeting thought in your mind and daily existence.
                This season however, we as a collective, celebrate a time of renewal, kindness and understanding. I have been trying to do this. To make myself more aware of others fight for survival. It has not been an easy task, but one I have endeavored to fulfill.  I have tried to approach things with good humor and understanding. I have failed but I have also succeeded. As I hope you have in these times.
                As we look forward into the New Year we try to set aside the failures of the past and embrace the success’s we have achieved and the dreams we wish to forge into reality. Unfortunately for me I have become more and more cynical with each passing year, so finding hope in frail and murky dreams seems extremely juvenile. I’m also tainted against putting much faith in the pipe dreams most people I know are afflicted with. Imaginings the likes we’ve all heard muttered by the water cooler, the lunch counter or even during a brief respite from the never ending monotonous tasks which fill our lives. Words meant to make us feel just a bit better about the existence we are eeking out at the cost of our health, loved ones and mental acuity.
                As a child I looked at a calendar and marked off specific days. I’d place and “X” on the first day of school, a smiley face on the last day of school and the first day of football, the first day of baseball practice, a slash would mark my birthday and many other mysterious symbols adorned my paper time keeper. Every one of them personal and important to me and what I would be doing in my life for the next three-hundred and sixty-five days on this revolving mud ball known as earth.
                Fast forward to today and what does my calendar look like? Dollar signs. Yup, the almighty $ symbols fill in the squares which represent days. They are a constant reminder of when bills have to be paid. This is what I live for now. Not football, baseball, days off, vacations or even holidays. I am consumed with making sure the reality I have created with my own will does not crumble under  my failure to maintain the balance of economical daily life which would allow the monsters of the blue nowhere materialize into existence and destroy all that I have tried to create.
                Yet now, as the second hand of a clock passed the number twelve we are all supposed to feel a sense of renewal and hope. I don’t feel it. I can’t feel it. To feel that way would require me to don some rose colored glasses and check reality at the door. I can’t afford to do that and I know many others who can’t pay a bill that steep either. They are the level headed, nose to the grind stone; hard workers who make the cogs of this nation revolve in a syncopated dance of unseen machinations by the fugue filled minds of the unsuspecting masses.
                (Ok, I admit, I just got a bit preachy. I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not going to. But I will move on.)
                As usual, with my end of year blog I like to look back on my year and see if I was successful in my resolutions over the span of time imposed on us by a Pope in the 1500’s. I have to say I had some successes and some failures. I managed to get published twice; Success.  Approaching conflict with good humor; Success and Failure. Making peace with people who irritate me; Failure, but I didn’t inflict damage on them so I’ll take a push on that one.
                I don’t know yet what my next resolutions will be. Just thinking about them makes me want to crawl under my covers and sleep.  But, maybe… just maybe I will have on that list the ability to try and not worry so much and try to take things in stride. I doubt I’ll be successful in that resolution but I can at least try.
                Have a great and merry New Years my dear reader, stay safe and hug the ones you love.

Skip Novak

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snug Harbor Part 10

Welcome back and thank you for your patience. I know it's been a while since I've been able to post part of this serial and I appreciate your sticking with me through all the crud of the past three months. So, without further ado or delay, here is Snug Harbor Part 10.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, I, myself prefer to laugh since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. –Kurt Vonnegut

     I’d like to say the rest of the walk was easy, but I can’t. The awkward silence hung in the air between each of us like an unwanted pop quiz in school none of us were prepared for. In my mind, the horror which Mikey had experienced in the loneliness and darkness of that night was unparalleled in my life. I wish I could say the same for my fellow hikers but at the time I knew not much of the individual pains which marked our lives and would go untold for months to come. Mikey was king of suffering in our group and no one wanted to volunteer to remove the crown from his head.

     We marched forward, our eyes glazed over and our minds numb with the images our overactive teenage minds formed. I felt bad for Mikey, sorrow and fear filled me and I wanted to speak words of comfort to him but I knew whatever I said would never be as eloquent as the thoughts my mind formed let alone be accepted by Mikey. His pain was his alone and the only way he knew how to share it was by showing us the source of his nightmares in an attempt to make that pain a watered down memory. A memory that would eventually become so distant and vague the pain it carried with it would fade into the blackness of time.

     Our quest leader slowed his pace and then stopped. I stopped and stood quietly beside him and lit up a smoke, the rest of the gang stopped and a few lit up as well. “Ok guys,” Mikey said “I haven’t been here in while and I don’t know if anyone else has but remember, if we go in the house, some of the boards are rotted and weak so only step on the studs. Better yet, just step where I do. Don’t touch anything and don’t take any souvenirs. People died here and this place was once Indian grounds which in some way makes it sacred. I don’t know how it makes it sacred but that’s what my dad says and is also the reason why this place hasn’t been torn down.” He then turned and pushed his way through the brush behind him. We followed.

     I stepped out of the woods and into an overgrown back yard of what I had come to think of as the “Haunted House”, Mikey was standing in the middle of the yard staring at the burned out shell of the house. To his left was a shed and next to it was the melted wreckage of a twenty foot boat, the grass and weeds had grown over the trailer and ivy had begun to claim the wreckage as a new sub-structure  making it look as if the boat itself were some sort of modern topiary gone awry.

     “I was on the other side of the shed when I heard the screaming.” Mikey said “The family was in the house or at least the parents were. I can’t say for sure the little girl was in the shed. But from what I heard she was in there and when I come here at night still hear her in there. Crying.”

     None of us said anything; we all started to drift off, our inquisitive and exploratory nature getting the best of us. I made my way around the far side of the house where most of the rear right corner was missing. As I approached I could see inside to what I thought was a bedroom, I could make out the soot covered shell of a dresser with a broken and dirt covered mirror sitting on top of it. I stood there not realizing I was staring at the faded reflection of myself and the woods behind me. What had happened here? I thought to myself. How could an entire family get so goofed up in their lives that death was the only way out?

     “Creepy isn’t it.” Kev’s voice said from behind me.

     I jumped. “Damn man… give a guy some warning would you! You damn near made me shit my pants Kev.”

     Kevin chuckled “Sorry man. But it is creepy aint it?”

     “Yeah, it is.”

     Kev and I walked over to the shed, making our way around the boat and saw the front of the shed was completely gone leaving a gaping cavern filled with rusted tools. The ivy had been busy here as well; it had wormed its way inside at least five feet on the floor and covered half the walls. I searched for any signs of the source of Mikey’s crying but did not find anything. It was too dark, too gloomy and very creepy. No sign of animals trying to make a home inside, no evidence of anyone trying to loot the place. I made my way to the opening and saw most of the roof was missing, melted shingles hung down in long, black tendrils that stretched halfway down the walls reminding me of a negative image of tear stains on a dirty face. I looked to the hole in the roof and saw jagged, splintered plywood slowly rotting in the afternoon light.

     Streaks of sunlight seemed muted inside the shed and the shadows seemed to absorb the light and turn it into more darkness. I could feel a cool breeze slowly making its way out of the shed and the smell of old burned wood filled my nostrils. A soft metal tinkling filled my ears and I took a step forward to get a better look inside only to be grabbed from behind.

     “Whoa there cowboy. You don’t want to go in there.” Kevin cautioned me.


     “It’s not safe man. Look, the roof has a big hole in it, the front is missing and the walls are bowed. You go in there and you’re taking you life in your own hands.”

     I turned around, scratched my head and looked Kevin in the eye “Yeah man, you’re right. Thanks.”

     We left the shed and went in search of the rest of our group; they had all left the back yard and moved around to the front of the house. We heard low murmurs of their talk as we walked up the overgrown driveway. In some places the asphalt had cracked and weeds had sprouted up, their mission to reclaim the land seemed to be on a successful path. In one spot I saw a sapling of an evergreen tree sprouting and I marveled at the unstoppable force of nature.

     “So… we gonna go inside?” Big Pi asked as Kev and I approached.

     “You think it’s a good idea?” Teresa questioned.

     All of a sudden the entire group started talking at once. It seemed everyone had an opinion as to whether or not we should go in. Mikey, Kev, and Little Pi were extremely vocal about the dangers of entering the house. Teresa and the rest were for doing some interior exploration. I kept quiet and stayed to the back of the group.

     Everything I had witnessed so far had made me believe there was something terribly wrong with this place. That is when I noticed there were no woodland sounds one would normally hear in the woods. No crickets, no birds not even the chattering of squirrels battling it out with chipmunks. Just the voices of my friends filled the air. “I think we should leave.” I said.

     No one heard me. I repeated myself and got the same results. I walked over to the front porch and sat down on the brick work and lit up a cigarette and waited for everyone to stop arguing. Kevin came and sat down next to me with a look of tired exasperation on his face.

     “You want to go in?” he asked.

     “Not really, the place doesn’t look safe and I am a bit creeped out to tell you the truth.”

     “Yeah, it is spooky.”

     “I thought it would be fun. Ya know? Like at Halloween when I go to the haunted houses. But it’s not. This whole place is just depressing and have you noticed that none of the animals are hanging around?”

     “Not really, I’ve only been here a couple times and this is the closest I’ve been to the house. Usually we just stick to the backyard and throw rocks and sticks into the house.”

     “You’ve never been in the house?”

     “Nah, no one has. Not even Mikey. Everyone is afraid.”

     “Then why all the arguing?”

     “Ah, who knows. It seems the chicks want to go in and Big Pi just wants to put up a good front. Tell you the truth, I think we should just leave. Go ride the bikes in the dunes or go back to your campsite.”

     “Either one is fine with me.”

     “C’mon, let’s go tell everyone that.”

     We got up and walked over to the gang, they were still arguing. Kevin yelled for them to stop and they all looked at him as if he had just stolen their money. Kevin told them of our idea and a few agreed.

     “Fuck this, I’m going in.” Teresa said and headed for the boarded up front door.

     “Don’t go in there Teresa.” Mikey said.

     “Why the fuck not? You scared Mikey? Gonna pee your pants? Run home to Mommy?” She chided.

     “Nothing like that you stupid cow! It’s not safe. Look at the house, the roof is sagging, the walls are collapsing and if you to look in the windows you’d see that parts of the floor are missing. Jeez, you’d run head long into a train without thinking wouldn’t you?”

     Before any of us could react, Teresa crossed the distance between her and Mikey shoved him hard in the chest with both of her hands and knocked him to the ground. She then threw herself on top of him, pinning his arms to the leaf covered land with her legs and started to punch him in the face.


     Mikey’s screams filled the air and I slowly backed away from the mayhem. Karen and Steve grabbed Teresa by the arms and drug her to the front porch while the Pi’s tried to keep Mikey from going after her. I glanced over at Steve and Karen, they were trying to calm Teresa down, Steve standing to Teresa’s left and rubbing her back. On his face was a look of anguish and sorrow. Karen was kneeling in front of Teresa, they were holding each other’s hands and I could see tears streaming down Teresa’s face. Her shoulders hitched back and forth as she struggled to calm her breathing and stop hyperventilating. I couldn’t hear what was being said by Karen but her I could see her head nodding slowly.

     I didn’t feel comfortable approaching Karen, Teresa and Steve and I knew I had nothing to say to Mikey and the Pi’s so I sat down and leaned against a slowly dying tree. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on within the group nor did I really want to know but I did know there was some sort of history between Mikey and Teresa. A history most likely marred by adolescent prematurity and awkwardness. I lit up a cigarette and watched my friends try to sort out their runaway emotions.

     I was never one who liked to be party to drama or fighting, sure, I’d had fights and lost my temper, matter of fact over the past few years I had been in a constant state of inner conflict with trying to control my temper. I lost more of the battles than I won but I was still trying to not be a complete uncontrollable nut-case.

     So I sat, smoked, sorted my thoughts and waited for my friends to calm down. I didn’t have to wait long. Two cigarettes actually.

     Mikey was the first one to stand up and he slowly made his way across the desolate front yard towards the trio on the porch. The Pi’s followed cautiously behind him, as they drew closer to me, I stood up and walked next to Mikey. We came upon the front porch and the air filled with tension and anger as Mikey and Teresa’s eyes locked on one another’s.

     Steve stepped between our two groups and Karen stood up next to him forming a wall of teenage anger. “Mikey, you better just go. She is pissed off at you and doesn’t want anything to do with you right now.” Karen warned.

     Mikey looked at the ground and kept shifting his weight from left foot to right foot, his hands were shoved deep inside his jeans and I could see he was struggling with trying to say something. His eyes were puffy, red and looked as if they were about to explode into tears again.

     “M, sorry.” His whispered voice barely audible in our silent dome of dead vegetation.

     “What’s that?” Teresa said and stood up behind her protectors.

     “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to piss you off or call you a cow.”

     “You better be. Cause next time I’m going to pound your face so bad your mother won’t be able to recognize you.”

     I could sense Mikey become more agitated and I saw Big Pi reach out and put his right hand on Mikey’s left shoulder. “Just take it man.” Big Pi whispered.

     “Teresa, I really am sorry.”

     “Whatever.” She answered, “Let’s get out of here, I’m thirsty and it’s getting late. We can come back and search the house anytime.”

     We made our way to the back yard, this time Teresa leading our motley group to the entrance of the woods. I was bringing up the rear and as I crossed into the darkening canopy and safety of the forest I paused and looked back at the rotting building. For a moment, a very brief moment, quicker than a blink I swear I saw the house brand new and shiny with a mother and father laughing in the back yard. The little girl being chased by her father paused and looked directly at me pointed and laughed. And as quickly as the vision appeared it evaporated leaving only a shadow of a memory behind in my psyche.

     To this day I wonder if what I saw was real and if the darkness that descended upon the family left any lingering connections to that moment and my group of misfits. Or, had the some protective entity used the power of teenage angst and raw emotion to cause a fight which stopped us from ever going inside the house and thus saving us from the inevitable collapse of the structure. A grave and scary moment for all of us who witnessed those final moments and almost killed Kev, but that is a story for another time.

     Have a great week everyone.