Porter loved October! He was born in October and most of the good things that had happened to him began with the Halloween month! He and Chet had become good friends in
the first grade and the memories of those halcyon days still warmed his heart. He recalled when Mrs. K. had taken all of the first grade class on a hayride and they had admired the girls…although they did not quite know why… The hayride was bumpy and the air was chilly…but they were excited about the Haunted House that they were on their way to visit. Chet and Porter spent their waking hours thinking about Frankenstein and Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. On Friday nights and again on Sunday afternoon they spent many scary and joyful hours at the Orpheum Theatre in their little Southern Illinois town of Eldorado, Illinois. Usually, during October, there were multiple horror shows to enjoy. Every year the English theatre company, Castle Productions, spun out another Dracula movie with the famous British actor, Christopher Lee. Now, Christoper Lee’s portrayal of Dracula was quite a bit more explicit than the original classic with Bella Lugosi’s rendition of the undead vampire. There was an abundance of blood, in Technicolor, and the female victims were a bit more risqué than the 1930’s masterpiece! Porter was reflecting on Dracula…as the hayride arrived at the haunted house…
The Haunted House was a Victorian home outside of Raleigh, Illinois. It had a red candle in each of it’s 13 windows. Chet mentioned that the number 13 was significant in the study of Numerology… Parker, a classmate that Porter had a crush on…clenched his hand and asked if she could go through the Haunted House with he and Chet. Porter said, absolutely, and Chet flashed a sly and knowing grin. Porter had idolized Parker since the 1st day of first grade! It was time to slide off of the hay bales and pick the straw out of your trousers. There was an inviting bonfire behind the Haunted House an there was not a star in the October sky! As Parker clenched Porter’s hand…Chet followed dutifully behind. The smoky odor of the burning wood from the bonfire…filled the chilly air. The intrepid three entered the front door of the spooky dwelling…not knowing what to expect. Before them, on the newel post of the circular staircase was a bodiless head that spoke to them. The head spoke clearly and with distinction. The head had an orange face and orange hair and looked, at first glance like a pumpkin, and the utterance that issued from it’s mouth was bone chilling. The pumpkin head said, ‘Beware of death due to fright…or at least as good scare if you choose to enter this house!’ And, then, it uttered the words, ‘Prepare to be frighted as you have never been frightened before…’ Parker squeezed Porter’s hand until it ached…but it was a good ache! Chet said, ‘He is here,’ but Porter and Parker did not know who Chet was speaking of?
Doc Irvin, the hayride driver, was waiting in the driveway. He had given the horses some sugar cubes and brushed them down and he was relaxing and the pullers of the wagon…as well. Doc noted that the children should enjoy the Haunted House as he had gone through it with his grandchildren last year and they all, including him, were scared to death! He noted that the reality of the exhibits was phenomenal. He went on to say that at one point he had forgotten where he was and who he was with and it seemed like that he was in the future…but, a dystopian one… Doc Irvin told Doc Drysdale, as all the bus drivers were noted as ‘Doc’, that his visit was somewhat an out of body experience where he wondered if he had entered the television show, The Twilight Zone… He went on the say that soon after the pumpkin head had spoken to the group he had become dizzy and disoriented. He saw himself a very old man and sadness surrounding him. Americans were fighting each other and killing each other in the name of christianity and expelling undesirable citizens because of the color of their skin or their religion or their political affiliation. He concluded by saying that he knew that he should not have had those two vodka tonics before he took his grandkids to the Haunted House…but that he enjoyed a couple of tonics every day…an he thought that no harm would be done…
When Parker and Porter and Chet emerged from the Haunted House…Parker said that she did not want to talk of what she had seen in the ancient dwelling…Porter mentoned that he thought at one point that he had fainted…and Chet said that he had witnessed Armageddon…and then it was time for roasted hot dogs and smores…
Slow Down and Listen Up
A wonderful blog from Jonathon Brooks!
It is easier to talk fast than to slow down and listen. It is easier to be rude when confronted with rudeness than it is to be kind. It is easier to choose judgment over grace. In my life’s story, I aim to listen while being kind and walking in grace.
Human beings want their voices to be heard clearly, but we don’t all want to hear for ourselves with clarity. I try not to talk over others and to apologize when I mistakenly do so. At times it seems to me that I have a lot to say. But I need to wait my turn to speak what’s on my heart and mind. Our world needs more great listeners and fewer proud boasters. The reason I’ve learned a lot through the slowing down of reading books is because I didn’t make the devastating mistake of thinking I already knew…
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Love In Conflict — The Jazz Man
It is a lovely 64 degrees today in Southern Illinois. The pleasant temperature along with an 11 mile per hour wind says Fall has arrived! I wrestled all morning trying to delete my old iCloud account…since I have been paying for both it and the new account that I got when I changed phones. It […]Love In Conflict — The Jazz Man
Three Months Until Christmas!
When I first began at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale many of my colleagues would say in regards to a job that they had completed, ‘Close enough for government work!’ Contrary to public opinion, often their work was complete and excellent…but they still felt the need to quote their proverb that gave them some comfort should the foreman find a need for improvement in the work product. Since I am on the subject of obscure colloquial sayings…let me share with you another. At the beginning of each evening work shift and at the conclusion of the shift we were required to report to the Building Services Office. At the beginning of the shift to enable a foreman to report our presence on the daily attendance and at the conclusion to turn in our nightly time card. At the end of the shift, Jimmy Cook, a Building Custodian, would exclaim to John Golliher, a foreman, ‘Let her bump!’ John would respond on each occasion, ‘Let her bump…Jimmy Cook!’ I was 20 years old…and mystified by the exchange… A year or more later I asked a member of my team what, ‘Let her bump,’ meant? Ruth Biggs, who was John Golliher’s sister, told me that it was an old railroad term that referred to allowing the train cars to bump…in order for them to connect together. So, now it is 3 months until Christmas…and I am already in Spirit! Or you might say that this is one of my obscure traditions. MJ observed that I seemed to enjoy the Christmas Season more than Christmas Day! I reluctantly have to admit that she is right. I am a bit let down by the Day…because my revelry is over…
Are you with me…does it seem that 2020 began…yesterday? Has our pandemic odyssey robbed us of a year while we were preoccupied? In any event…October is coming up…and I will be 63! I can recall when turning 40 seemed old. My buddy Steve and I share the same birthday…although one of us is a bit older than the other… I rejoiced to see that Turner Classic Movies had a day full of Science Fiction and Horror movies, what we customarily referred to as B Movies. I am recording Village of the Dammed…it is creepy. I loved monster movies and science fiction movies when I was a youngster. My cousin, Billy, was subscribed to Forest J. Ackermans’s Monster Magazines and he had the most excellent collection of full monster masks that I had ever seen! I had a collection of Monster Models which included Frankenstein and Wolfman and Dracula. I glued them together and painted them with the little bottles of model paint that you could find in any Ben Franklin Dime Store. Billy and I made an 8 millimeter movie of me with his Creature From the Black Lagoon full head mask and Creature hands walking through the strip cut near Eldorado, Illinois.
So Christmas is coming and with it the hope for better days ahead! One of the first impressions that I had of my church, of over 21 years…was that First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale…did Christmas right! We first attended a Sunday in November of 1998…just before Thanksgiving. We were greeted warmly and the members of the congregation were so nice and interested in our sons. I think that it was the next Sunday that the minister began to speak of decorating the Christmas Tree in the churches narthex. At that time I did not know what a narthex was…but I found out. The tree was resplendent with multicolored twinkled lights and there were Nativity scenes and Creches throughout the narthex and the sanctuary…as well as, what seemed like a 100 poinsettia plants…strategically placed. We attended our first Christmas Eve church service…and it began at 11:00 P:M: and ended at the stroke of midnight. The service was primarily candlelight and the minister caused me to reflect on a Charles Dickens Christmas…and I looked for Tiny Tim and his father…Bob Cratchit… I was totally won over to the Presbyterian Church…that night!
After my mom and dad divorced…we had little money. Nevertheless mom found a way to purchase some Christmas presents for me. We enjoyed Christmas with my grandmother, Grace, and my mother’s sister’s, Wanda and Guelda and Vema…along with my cousins, Brenda and Billy. There was fudge and cookies and candies and divinity…which you never see anymore….and a great helping of love and family…and hope for a better day…
Amazing Grace — The Jazz Man
The afternoon breezes are cool and inviting. Lately I have been walking the pathway around our campus lake on the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. I have been reminded of the efficacy of this quiet sanctuary. As I traverse the familiar path of my youth…I am lost in the welcoming embrace of nature. […]Amazing Grace — The Jazz Man
The Continuing Adventures of Wallace T. Brooks…Private Eye (Chapter 2)
Wallace noticed that the last wooden black bear that Barry had carved with his Swiss Army knife had a green ribbon tied around its neck. None of the other carved creations had ribbons around their necks. ‘Ah ha!’ exclaimed Wallace as he had his first clue to the missing Barry. Wallace asked Marvin the mole if he knew of a store in Gatlinburg that sold green ribbon? Marvin said that he had purchased some green ribbon last St. Patricks Day in Jennie’s Ribbon and Bows Emporium and General Store. He then asked if anyone had seen his glasses? George the field mouse noted that it looked as if he was holding something in his left hand…whereupon Marvin exclaimed with great surprise and joy that he had forgotten that he was holding his spectacles as he could not see to read with them… when he was wearing them!
Mr. Mole proceeded to the Emporium on his moped with his spectacles firmly affixed to his nose! Frank the fox noted that the last time he had spoken with Barry that he seemed a little down in the dumps… Barry had disclosed to him that there were not nearly as many tourists this year and that he had missed the lively banter with them and constantly getting his photo snapped with them. He had gone on to say that each year when fall arrives he longs for a visit to Cades Cove and the splendor of the historic village and its majestic surroundings! Barry went on to mention that he had met his wife on the first day autumn, 24 years ago, near the Methodist Church in the Cove!
Wallace suggested that the group make their way to the old Methodist Church and Frank the fox said that he would drive them in the Chamber of Commerce van. When they arrived they began to pursue the church grounds, George was the first to notice that there were fresh bear tracks in the historic cemetery. Although they did not have the size of Barry’s foot…they suspected that he had been there not long before their arrival! Frank said that they should enter the church to see if there were more clues. Mole had just driven up on his red moped…and he ran into the church to announce, with some clear-sighted glee, that he had purchased green ribbon just the style and shade of the ribbon that they had discovered on the last carved black bear creation that Barry had done before his disappearance! Marvin went on to inform the group that Jennie, the owner of Jennie’s Ribbon and Bows Emporium and General Store, had told him that Barry had been into the store over the weekend and purchased a full roll of the green ribbon! Jennie then said that when she had asked Barry what he needed so much ribbon for…he had responded that he was going to take a holiday to visit his loved ones at the Cove! George the field mouse exclaimed that he had seen the same green ribbon tied to a oak tree in the cemetery! Wallace called out to his cadre to come over to a pew in the back of the ancient sanctuary to see what he was seeing. There on the back of the pew, carved in perfect block letters, was the inscription…BARRY LOVES ABIGAIL! George jumped up and down and beseeched the group to come and look at the green ribbon that he had noticed on the oak tree in the cemetery. There on the oak tree were the words: Abigail born on September 22, 1996 and died on September 22, 2016. Wallace asked, ‘Did any of you know that Barry was married?’ All the conclave said that they had not known of Barry having any family and that the audiences that watched him carve on a daily basis, including Saturdays and Sundays, seemed to be his family!
About that time walked in Bob Badger the Barrister. No one knew just how old Bob was. He had a law office near the Old Mill and had reported for work there…for many years. Bob asked, ‘Can I help you fine gentlemen?’ Wallace asked, ‘Have you seen any black bears lately?’ Bob the Badger Barrister laughed heartily, as Cades Cove was resplendent with black bears! ‘Could you describe the black bear that you are looking for?’ Marvin the mole answered, ‘He is a large black bear wearing bib-overhauls and a flannel shirt and a Tulley hat balanced on his head.’ Bob replied, ‘Why yes…I just spoke to him…not an hour ago. He was on his way to the Old Mill to have lunch with his daughter, Belinda. Wallace announced, ‘We must go the Old Mill immediately!’
When the investigators arrived there was Bob and several other black bears enjoying a picnic lunch of Bologna sandwiches and potato salad and pickled beets. Barry greeted the entourage with a broad smile and invited them to enjoy the afternoon repast with him and his family. Barry introduced the group to his daughter Belinda and her children, Parker and Payton. He was surprised at the kerfufle that had occurred at his absence as he rarely took time off from the Welcoming Center. He explained that he had fallen in love with his wife Abigail…so many years ago and that on the anniversary of her death he had to be with his daughter and grandchildren. Barry went on to say that he was going to retire from the Center and focus the remaining years of his life on his family. He had always loved the Cove and he and Abigail had agreed on his living away from her and Belinda…in order to make a living. He had realized that he had been away from his daughter and children for far too long… Marvin the mole removed his spectacles and wiped his eyes. Bob the Badger Barrister told the picnic enclave that he had some good deals on real estate in Cades Cove and that he would be happy to set them up with something great and consistent with their budget! George the field mouse asked Barry if he was going to give notice on his retirement from his black bear carving job? Barry said that he would. Frank the fox announced that is was time to head back to the Welcoming Center and close the case of Barry the missing Black Bear! Belinda asked, ‘Did I hear you call uncle Larry…Barry?’
Bob the Badger Barrister asked if the group did not understand that Barry had an identical twin brother named Larry? He went to say that no one could ever tell them apart…including himself…
The Premiere Day of Fall
Another great Jonathon Brooks Blog!
It is the first day of fall and I feel cool about it. I don’t often write at 5:00 AM, but here I am with two cups of coffee down, and now I’m seeing what exactly I have to say. Fall weather is a favorite of mine. I am ready for my green and red American Giant hoodies once again.
I recently attained my reading goal for 2020 of 30 books. Now I’m at 32 and reading on. Perhaps in 2021 I’ll also set a writing goal of 30 short stories. Similar to many writers, I find it difficult to make the time for writing on a regular basis. I make time for my love of reading but I don’t always do the same for my love of writing. Although I won’t be putting my pens away anytime soon.
Some events that I’m looking forward to are another Record Store…
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The Continuing Adventures of Wallace T. Brooks…Private Eye — The Jazz Man
Chapter 1 It was a smoky morning in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Wallace had been up late reading Lovecraft Country. As he pondered the spectacular events contained in the narrative…he thought about it’s deeper message. He and his family had been traveling to Gatlinburg for over 40 years, and the supreme joys of the Great Smoky Mountains […]The Continuing Adventures of Wallace T. Brooks…Private Eye — The Jazz Man
A Game Changer!
It is 70 degrees with a 9 mile per hour wind…and I am loving it! Fall has finally arrived in Little Egypt. Everything goes better in the fall…even in our 2020 pandemic. MJ and I have discovered a wonderful feature of shopping at our local Kroger’s supermarket and Walmart. We place our order on line and then drive to a specified location at either store and the kind attendants bring the sacked groceries out to our car and place them in the trunk…or in the boot…as the English would say. MJ had been telling me that we should try this miracle of shopping for some time…but I was skeptical…but now I am a believer!
Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale made an announcement earlier this week that is incredible! It is called the SIU System Commitment. ‘Leaders say it is a ‘system wide initiative beginning Fall 2021 that will cover tuition and mandatory fees for a new four-year undergraduate students who have a family income of less than $63,575 and meet basic requirements.’ WSIL TV.
‘ Our goal is to remove barriers so that all qualified students have access to an SIU Carbondale education,’ said Austin A. Lane, SIU Carbondale Chancellor. ‘A college education opens doors that lead to rewarding careers, and no student should have those doors closed due to financial restraints.’
Having been associated with SIUC for 42 years…I was gobsmacked! I have not seen an initiative of this magnitude in my career with the university! This groundbreaking commitment extends higher educational opportunities to students from lower wage families, of which Southern Illinois is populated by, as well as young people from across the nation. Southern had a bedrock commitment to being a university for first generation college students and an outreach to the children of coal miners and farmers and factory workers during its period of greatest growth, under the leadership of former university president Delyte Morris.
For the past several years our states have walked away from the commitment to providing a higher education experience at our state universities. Tuition has risen exponentially and an increasing number of of students have been priced out of college. Southern Illinois Universities extension of this exciting opportunity to students from lower income families is the most exciting news that I have heard in 2020!
SIUC’s tremendous announcement regarding regarding the systems financial commitment to students from lower income families has renewed my faith that we will come out on the other side of this terrible pandemic! ‘Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning!’
The Adventures of Pork-Pie and the Missing Sausage! — The Jazz Man
Pork-Pie was a happy pig! He had been the House Pig until he had become to large to sleep in bed with farmer Mike and Miss Lottie…whereupon they purchased a king size bed just for him! He watched as the other pigs were wallowing in the pig sty and that it was exceptionally muddy and […]The Adventures of Pork-Pie and the Missing Sausage! — The Jazz Man