Member Monday: Larry Watters

Last Saturday was a Writers Forum Read Around. That means we have fresh material for our Member Mondays!

Our first piece will be from past Writers Forum President Larry Watters. Larry says that since he has stepped down from some positions of responsibility, he actually has time to write. We look forward to more from Larry!

Too Many Graves

By Larry Watters

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Chapter One: The Counting

Matt shook his head in frustration. The first time he counted he thought he had made a mistake. He just as easily could have signed off on the tally, but being a perfectionist, he just had to get it right.

But when the second go-around came up with the same number, he got concerned. “Boy,” he said aloud to himself, “there should only be eighty-one graves, not eighty-three.” Then he giggled at the thought of what someone would think if they overheard him; a mass murderer maybe.

Matt Wampler was the supervisor of the, some would say gruesome, job of relocating graves before water started covering them next month.  Matt had won the bid for relocating the old Brandy Creek Cemetery to higher ground before the waters behind the new dam started flooding what had been the old communities of Brandy and Bourbon, both so named from the freely flowing kegs of yore.

It was a mix of old and new graves. Some of the sites dated back to the Gold Rush days when the area was host to California’s second major gold find. It was said that gold was on the surface back then, needed no picks, or even shovels, to gather it up.

Others were fairly recent. While the soon-to-be-covered towns were technically ghost towns, the cemetery was still active, popular with descendants of the early pioneers.

But having two too many graves was unsettling. He had hired a crew of five to dig the new graves, dig-up the old and rebury the remains. He suspected that his crew had got a little over eager when digging fresh sites with the backhoe and had simply lost count. He had let them go, all except for Paul. He briefly considered that he and his sole helper could uncover all to find the empties, and then decided that they didn’t really have to go to that extreme; that they only needed to poke a rod down to find the empty ones.

They didn’t really need to check all either; only the twenty-three that were unmarked. The rest had markers.

He rang Paul on his cell, and explained the mystery. Paul said he’d be there the next morning with a couple of long rods for probing.

Contented, Matt decided to call it a day and enjoy the beauty of the new location. Situated on a small rise above the dam, it overlooked the soon to be lake. Scrub pines with their raucous Scrub Jays filled most of the hill side. But in clearings a cavalcade of color ran riot. The native wildflowers were in bloom.

Sighing, Matt pulled his lunch from his backpack in the shade. He ate the same thing most every time when he was working at the site; Cheddar cheese from a local creamery, salami from a local meat locker, and Ritz crackers. It was a meal that seemed made for graveyards. Well, not really. But it was one that he was used to.

He fondly remembered being with his dad on road trips, and how it was almost a rule to have that same snack on stops. Sometimes roadside, but most of the time dad detoured off and found an old cemetery. After wandering to see who found the oldest grave, they would sit on the tailgate of the pickup and chow down; Matt with his sodas and Dad with his beers. Matt had outgrown sodas, preferring water these days.

He wished his dad had outgrown beers, but alas, it never came to be. Hal had never been one to get drunk, but Matt could never remember when his dad didn’t have a beer can stuck between his legs while driving, sitting on a tree stump when they stopped, or perched on the tail gate eating.

Listening to the birds, Matt sliced his salami, cut his cheese, and piled each on crackers. Cracker by cracker, he polished off the tube. He had a sense of being watched. Maybe it was the squirrels expecting a hand out. He hoped so any way.

Not many people shared his love of eating with dead people. It was an oddity that he could not explain. But today was different.

He really had the feeling that more than squirrels were watching. It was a sense that had saved his life back in ‘Nam.

Premise: After checking, they discover that none of the graves were empty.

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Member Monday: Pilgrimage of Poetry

Today’s Member Monday sees pieces sent in from participants of Anna Elkins’ ‘Pilgrimage of Poetry’ workshop. If you recall, participants walked around outside of the meeting at All Saints Episcopal Church until they found one thing that drew their attention. Then participants concentrated on all of the sensory images they drew from that object, and by the end of the workshop, had crafted a poem from those sensory images. Here are several that were submitted to the blog.

The Blessor

Granite chunk – large, heavy, rich hue of orange/gold and pale turquoise.
You touch me with your Grandeur.
Silence emanates from you.
American Natives call Stones the Keepers of Earth Memories.

You stand alone
above adjacent field of smaller stones.

A Sentinel?     Guardian?       Transmitter of Sacred Silence?

I bow and touch your surface.
Blessing fills me.

I stand in Silence.

 

Sonia Lovejoy

 

HUMMER

You are the blur of speed-demon wings hovering overhead

You are a lively twittering of scolding and questioning family and friends

You are a feathered hobbit secretly living in the thick, fragrant branches of a Coastal Pine tree

You are an insatiable drinker of sweet red nectar

You are a harbinger of Summer’s end

You…bring me Wonder

I…give you a Safe Haven free of cats and dogs!

by

Vicki Nelson

October 21, 2017

Redding Writers’ Forum Member

 

 

The Little Library

 

You are another world, hiding in plain view from the rest of the world.

You are the chatter coming from the pages of the books.

You are the flowers and trees that surround your stand.

You are the raindrops that trickle down the shingles of your roof.

You are intriguing, luring us to enter and wander through the pages of the books.

Bring me the stories that tempt me to lose myself in.

I give you credence and appreciation for these books.

 

Vickie Linnet

 

Traveler

You are a pile of rounded river rocks, far from any river

You are the sound of cars on the road, heading somewhere else

You are the scent of damp air and dirt

Scent so strong that I can taste the rain and the clay

You are a chill in the air

 

Bring me peace that I am exactly where I am supposed to be today

I give you my love for the journeys

George T. Parker

 

Member Monday: Ads and Cowhides, by Dale Angel

Ads and Cowhides

by Dale Angel

dale-angelThe ads feature all kinds of stuff we need to enjoy life more. There are pictures of huge chairs and couches made of black or brown leather…a refined word for ‘cowhide’.

For a little extra money you can have a place built in the arms of couches or chairs for your beverage of choice. It relieves one of using their arms, and alleviates the few steps to the refrigerator.

The ads indicate you need a wide screen to go with those loungers of great comfort.

Is selling these objects a subtle way of cultivating an appetite for self-destruction?

I’ve noticed after one falls into these comfort zones they fail to recover for hours. These lifeless areas of life add five pounds. Monday mornings their pants shrink and the buttons won’t work.

After a few years of practicing riding these cow hides they can’t breathe going up a single flight of stairs. Fancy names like Lazy Boy should be a red flag.

If the screen breaks down during a really big sports event, anxiety and distress indicate withdrawal symptoms. Bigger pickups apparently soothe and meet that need. Maybe because they have lost an important part of the masculine anatomy.

A limp self-destructing life may be caused by a failure to believe in raking the leaves or painting the house, so you pay the gym for the privilege of pumping iron. That same physical activity can enlarge all aspects of the body by running behind the lawn mower or repair the roof or some other useful work. An added benefit is you can learn to breathe again, maybe even climb ladders.

One of my neighbors returned a lounger because the neck rest was not angled right. Now, necks are so soft one can lose his ability to hold up one’s head. Can back problems be healed if one crawls off the cow hide? I hope before the neck fails to do its job, there are special doctors on every corner for failed backs and necks.

I’m keeping in mind shopping on line is a form of self-destruction when you’ve sit so long ones feet have no feeling, a good indication of my own symptoms of chasing the ads while sitting on cow hides.

There were awesome bargains for personnel; she got first dibs and took home pick-up loads after she plundered the spoils. I was left with a bikini, size 2, entry level bras, and old women’s shoes, the kind you wouldn’t be caught dead in. The kind I wear today.

Beautiful instrumental music came through the intercom. She sighed and said “That is the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.” I grabbed my polished sword and plunged it between the third and fourth rib as my lips answered “Yes, it is. It was written by The Beatles.”

She told me to set up a display for vases. I said “There’s a mistake. It says the price is $12.98. I just bought one of these at the dollar store.” She appeared defensive, fatigued, weary, and said that I lacked ‘retail savvy’. I think that includes salable skills.

It got worse. They put me in fabrics. Me! I suffer from ‘textile dementia’.

When the soft rose paisley brushed against me, I buckled and took it home. Then there was the blue polyester silk I saw myself draped in it. I couldn’t pass up 16 yards for so small a sum, there was more, at the end of the week, I had to pay them to work there.

I couldn’t count past my fingers and toes, so when a customer asked for a yard and three-sixteenths…six inches of the yellow and a half yard of the green…add the quarters of five eighths to that…cut three and one fourth plus half inch pieces…add another quart of the blue…a cup of tea and a half gallon of the striped and one fourth of a teaspoon and a mile and a half and eight tenths of a pound two ounces plus five grams…

I had to excuse myself. I needed to scream.

Member Monday: Let Go, by Larry Solberg

Many poets take great efforts in arranging their poems visually on the page as well as how they sound by ear. Sometimes presenting those poems can be a challenge in various media. Marie Warner’s poem from last week took a lot of work from both of us to get the blog’s presentation of it just the way Marie wanted it.

Cropped Larry Solberg 2Poems submitted by Writers Forum members Larry and Phillis Solberg presented similar challenges. Reproducing the line breaks and paragraphing exactly the way Larry and Phyllis submitted them pushed me outside of my technical comfort zone. Let me know if you think the presentation was successful.

Geo.

 

Larry Solberg

Member Monday: George Parker

Today’s Member Monday piece was written by George Parker, and read to the Writers Forum at the June Readaround.

 

First Afternoon of Fire

geo fireThat first afternoon we completed a patrol around our assigned section of the entire fire perimeter. The fire line was a literal line scratched onto the forest floor through the duff down to the mineral soil. ‘Duff’ is leaf litter, or any flammable organic debris on the forest floor. It’s the thick carpet of pine needles, sticks, and cones that accumulate on the forest floor. It’s critical to get this line down to dirt and rock…stuff that will not burn, or else the fire will just burn on through the line and keep burning. Everything outside of the fire line is green…trees, grass, brush. Most everything inside the line is black. ‘Most everything’ because not everything in a ‘burn area’ necessarily burns. Wisps of smoke rose from the ground and from charred trees everywhere inside the line. We attacked the more significant ones right away.  We dug into the dirt with the grubbing edge of a Pulaski to expose and cool off the hot material. We broke up smoldering pieces of wood and duff to dissipate the heat and cool them down. Flames licked from the ground up into bushes that were not yet fully consumed. One of us would go over and root out the burning material and spread it out as well. One of us carrying a piss pump would wet down the flames and hot smoldering material.

We did not spend too much time right now on any particular area. Stretch’s main job for us that afternoon was to see the entire terrain we would be covering during daylight hours. We hiked our assigned section of the perimeter several times. Stretch pointed out to us things we would be addressing the next day, such as the few trees that needed to be felled back into the burn area. These trees needed to be dropped because if they caught fire and fell across the fire line, the fire would escape and take off again. The Hot Shot crew had tackled most of those trees, but there were still a few for us to fall.

The two Yosemite fire fighter ‘grunts’ had a hard time keeping up with us as we moved around the perimeter. Listening to Stretch talk to them, it soon was obvious that this was their first season as fire fighters. Whether they would be back for a second season was open for debate right now. We Corpies would be right behind Stretch as he legged his way up and down the steep grades. This was the part of firefighting that we already knew all about! Every so often one of his guys could be heard from way behind “Stretch! Wait up!” Stretch started getting irritated with them. “Geez! C’mon! These guys are keeping up with me just fine, and they’re not even fire fighters! Get with it!” And then he would not slow down.

By sundown we had made several trips back and forth across our perimeter. No open flames remained…at this time. Stretch had a plan for the next day. We went back to our campsite for dinner. Dinner on these fires was MREs. Army rations. MRE stands for Meal Ready to Eat. Each meal comes in a big heavy-gauge plastic bag. Each bag contains a main course, a side dish, dessert, instant coffee, plastic utensils, toilet paper, and chewing gum. Each part was in its own little plastic pouch. The concept was simple. Tear the top off the pouch, add hot water, let it sit several minutes, and there you had it. An instant dinner. That first MRE went down pretty well. We had worked up quite an appetite.

We sat around talking for a while, and then everybody turned in for the night, two to a sleeping pit on the uphill side of a tree. As I crawled into my sleeping bag next to Glen, I took my boots off and set them carefully right next to my bag. I fell asleep to the sight of stars and the smell of smoke.