Chrissy

thedutchmountains.tumblr.com

thedutchmountains.tumblr.com

Shitty to say, but there was a special joy in hearing that they’d split. That’s small I know, I’ll own that, but they had a good run, time-wise anyway. How am I supposed to feel? She ditched me to marry that dick. Not right away, of course, but within the year. Her kisses were so soft you could be fooled into thinking she had no teeth-just a tongue or two and a couple pair of lips. The first time with her, sliding along the leather back seat of Bull’s Caddy while he got loaded in Frankie’s Blue Note, is still in my top five and probably always will be. I was love sick and gob-smacked when she told me she was going to give it another try with him. That was it; she had only dated he and I and I was an interlude.  I went back to fishing in the deep, wide sea and they bred two footballers; hideous little brutes that grew to look just like him. Now they’re split and there’s nothing to be done. I’m entangled like a feral shoat in a discarded bundle of bob wire: squealing and wishing for freedom but completely out of ideas for winning it. Besides, heard she preferred women now. I can see how being married to him would turn her off the sex. Probably surprised it didn’t turn her off the species. But really, she had a killer laugh, a great smile and beautiful teeth. I just never felt them. Not once.

 

Balzac

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Flew to Paris years ago on business. I was saddled with a mid-level manager who was as loose as uncooked pasta so I had to entertain myself. Because it was those times, I snorted coke crouching in the lav then couldn’t sleep the whole way across the Atlantic; drank too much in the darkened plane till I got tired of it then dropped a Quaalude. The times, as I said.

By the time we landed the drugs had cancelled each other and I was straight, but wine drunk and it was midmorning. He wanted to go to the hotel to “freshen up” whatever that meant, but it was my first trip to Paris so I commandeered the cab and barked “Pere Lachaise!” Where? he asked. Cemetery, I said. We’re in Paris and we’re going to a cemetery? Who’s buried there? Balzac, I told him. Balzac. Turned out to be true but what did I know? Just said it. Didn’t want to tell him we were going to Jim Morrison’s grave.

The jig was up when we got out of the cab and picked up a map from an old woman on a folding chair and started following the makeshift signage. As we got closer, the graffiti thickened, the litter deepened and just as we reached the small circle of pilgrims passing a joint, which I grabbed at, the sun hit me like an ax and the night of red wine split my skull. Somewhere there is a picture of me talking to a pack of German girls one of whom had some English. None of them thought Morrison was buried there. That he was dead at all. I had no problem with him being dead-that it could happen. That’s what people did: some sooner some later. I never thought he wasn’t buried there.

Until the morning, years later, when I saw him working in a bait shop in North East, PA where we had gone salmon fishing. We were almost sick at the time, having drunk all night and barely sober in the cool autumn morning. Aside from the fishing and wine, North East was known for fresh donuts made in a bakery with huge foggy widows on the main drag. People lined the street for them. That was back then-not now. Now it’s all Horton’s and Dunkin and that shit.

So the first thing we did was split two dozen fresh, gooey hot glazed donuts and sweet steaming coffee from Styrofoam cups. Then went to the bait shop near the creek where Jim Morrison sold us salmon eggs and hooks. It was surreal. I couldn’t stop staring at him. I even called him “Jim” and he looked at me like I was nuts. It wasn’t till later, on the stream, that I realized the guy didn’t look like Morrison at all, but like a fat Val Kilmer. I had them confused from the movie.  Fucking embarrassment. Coulda been worse. Coulda thought he was Doc Holliday.

Caught three nice steelhead that morning, on the eggs I bought and only puked once behind a tree. Kicked leaves over it. Turned out to be a good day overall.

Copperhead!

Copper 4

My wife saw him first-riding ahead of me as she always did-and pulled off to wait for me. She was eyeing something on the trail that, even from a distance, I could tell was a snake. This has been a great summer for snakes and I’d caught and played with big blacksnakes, whippey little garters, a hog nosed, a couple of rat snakes and one beautiful corn snake that I wanted to keep. But didn’t. From the profile on the trail I expected a big black.

“Figured you’d want to see this one”, she said as I braked to a stop.

Getting closer, there was no mistaking. The sunlight shining off it’s head named it perfectly. She had heard the stories about all the copperheads I had caught as a boy. Climbing up the sunny rocks overlooking the river or kicking through the driftwood piles on the bends. There was no “why” to it back then but the excuse that I was sixteen or seventeen with more testosterone than brains.

There were belts, hat bands and just plain salted skins oiled and mounted on the garage walls. There were one or two still around when we got together which led to the stories. My rule then was to catch them alive and dispatch them gently, in a way that wouldn’t damage the skin.

That was as good an explanation as any but she knew better. She could hear in the stories the rush of hanging over a rocky outcropping forty feet above the water and yanking a copperhead by it’s tail from a fissure in the rock, dropping it to the ground and being quick enough to snatch it behind the head before it came back on me. To hold it thrashing in my fist-feeling the strength of it’s body and seeing the bare fangs wanting nothing more than to be inside me-got my heart racing like nothing else back then. Truth be told, that one had almost gotten me on the thumb. I had sat in the hot sun, legs dangling over the river, for a good twenty minutes until my heart regained its normal pace.  I kept that skin the longest.

These days I give copperheads wide berth as much as I can. They and I share similar tastes in surroundings and terrain so they are always near. But avoidable. This guy, though, is right here. “You’re not going to pick it up, are you?” she asked noticing me moving toward the snake. She quickly repeated the words as a declaration rather than a question in case the seventeen year old me bubbled to the surface with none of the requisite reflexes or quickness.

“Naw. Just watching him move off into the tall grass. Beautiful, isn’t he…”

“You don’t kill what can’t harm you. And you shouldn’t kill what can harm you unless it’s a threat to you right there….Go around just killing stuff, it’ll eventually come back on you. It throws things out of whack.”

 -from “Strange as this Weather Has Been”; a novel by Ann Pancake