The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter 3

“My eyes were closed tight, hands behind my back and by my reckoning; I jumped, maybe 6 inches high, over a twig.  That was about a minute ago.  I was waiting to land.  I slowly peeked at where I was going to end up; and through my now opened eyes, I looked at all the stars…where a hall was supposed to be.

“STARS, they were all around me; in front of, in back of me…” the Major turned to his left, tilted his head up, then down, spun left, then right,”…they were on top of, all around me, they were even under me, stars and nothing else.  What happened to the hall, the hall that was on the other side of the twig?

“What happened to my clothes, in the light of a gazillion stars I could see that I was no longer wearing my 49s sweat shirt and jeans anymore.  The pants I was wearing were of a of a woolen type, a deep brown like the wet bark of a tree, a ruffled front shirt with lace sleeves the color of morning fog, braces of the deepest purple, a coat the color of a deep water lake collar rising up to my ears sleeves rolled back and draping to mid-thigh.  I felt a little chill around my ankles and saw…the sneakers, an olive green with orange laces and no socks.

“It was then that I noticed the hat.  A scarlet hat of felt, yards and yards of felt.  Something was tickling my right ear, like a bug buzzing to close; I went to brush it away and discovered it was a feather.  The hat seemed to be growing feathers, long feathers, short feathers, straight feathers, bent feathers, when would it stop?  I reached to the top of the hat; it stopped.

“I was standing, floating; spinning it was hard to tell in that space.  There were explosions of colors going on all around me, colors I could never have imagined.  Then colors collapsed on themselves, and music was in the colors, thousands of beautiful songs played at my ear.  I was somewhere between the beginning and the end, here and there…and then I knew something else…I WAS FALLING!”

The Major grabbed the brim of the hat and with a look of panic on his face.

“From out of nowhere, there were clouds and water and very solid ground below me (I was sure it was below me this time) and  I was going to die.

“The wind was tearing at me as I fell faster and faster, it pulled most of the feathers from my oversized hat.  I twisted the hat on tighter…and I slowed down, I tilted the hat right, and I turned right, with the hat over my right ear, the few remaining feathers flopping in the breeze, I was floating (again).  Floating over a land that was nestled in the warmest corner of the calmest sea (and I had seen them all during my rapid decent).

“There were fields, filled with every kind of flower imaginable; there were patches of the deepest red, blues and green bunched tightly together; colors that in the breeze looked like waves on the sea.  It was a splendid, enormous, impossible patchwork quilt.”

The Major extended his arm, with his hand open he gestured in a wave like fashion from corner to corner of the field he was in.

“laid upon the ground for a giant’s picnic.

“The splendor that was flowery field was dwarfed by the forest bordering it.  Populated by trees of stupendous proportions, with bases bigger than houses, trunks and branches rising so high above they separated the clouds like foam on the shore wraps around a stone.

With a look of delight and voice almost a whisper, he said:

“Why this could have been a model for the Garden of Paradise.”

“It was then that I noticed that I was once more falling, not as far or as fast, but FALLING.  In great haste I twisted my hat, tried pulling it over both ears and then my eyes and was just about to scream…when I stopped, I landed.”

“’It took you long enough…just had to gawk.’ Charly said.  ‘Pull that thing off your eyes and lets us take a stroll.’

“’Well, Master Quickstep, what do you see?’

The Major tilted his head up as he spoke, shifting his gaze as if talking to a much taller person.

The Major stood silent for a moment, he slowly turned his head from left to right, his mouth opened his eyes grew wide as he said,

“Beautiful…colors, flowers, trees and grasses…beauty…sir”

“’Charly,’

The Major’s head tilted up and left,

‘Come, into the Wood.’ The Major said in a voice deep and pleasant.

“As small as Charly was he moved very very quickly and it was a struggle to keep up and as I started to break into a run, he stopped, turned and faced me, fists on hips he looked at me.  I was going to run him over or if by some miracle I could stop my feet from moving I was going to fall face first into the mossy ground or on top of Charly.  My olive green sneakers (with the orange laces) held their ground as if glued to the forest floor, my woolen trousers grew ridged and it was the very purple braces that kept me from flying out of those same trousers as I waved back and forth like slinky on an incline.

“’Are you always this slow?  Why ever do they call you, ‘Quickstep?’  Charly stood in a one of the scattered shafts of light that made their way thru the dense canopy above.  Charly gestured toward the ground around him, as if on cue a breeze shifted the trees and the pin points of light danced through the forest.  ‘What do you see?’ he asked.

The dancing lights showed the brilliant greens of the ferns, the tans and greys of clusters of mushrooms, discarded branches and leaves, a rabbit, squirrel and the damp moss floor.  I mentioned all that I saw, overwhelmed by the balance, the perfection of it all.

“Charly laughed more of a chuckle as he led us, (at a more leisurely pace) from the heart of the Great Wood back into the sunlight.  ‘Take that thing off your ears and listen.’”

The Major pulled the hat off of his ears and set it high on his brow so that it draped like a head dress and tilted his head as if listened to a distant voice,

“I listened and listened and then I began to hear them; all the voices, some were grumbling, some were unkind, some frantic and none were happy.

“All of the flowers seemed to be…well vain.  This is what I heard  ‘I have the true red’ said one red rose; and ‘Only I have grand stance’ said the iris.  Among each and every flower boasting of its splendor; there was unhappiness, for it seemed that flowers have the very softest of voices.  You doubt me, hold your ear as close as you might to any flower any flower you chose and tell me what you hear.

“So brag as they might, they couldn’t be heard by even their nearest of neighbors.

“Now they did have guests that stopped by I saw; the oh so busy bees, butterflies and the occasional aphid.

“The bees arrived in a flurry of rapid movements and even more rapid talk.  ‘The buzzzz queen said buzzzz buzz and buzz, gather-buzzz-ing buzz buzz, and buzz.  Good-buzzz.’ The poor soft spoken flowers couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“The butterflies arrived and sipped a cup of dew off the flower’s leaves and gracefully danced across the colorful flower petal and listened to all the poor vain flowers had to say about themselves.  And they listened and listened and listened…a never said a word.  One daffodil referred to it as ‘…talking to a rock.  It would be so nice if once they would agree with how beautiful I am.’

“When the aphids arrived and they often did; they never listened, rarely spoke, except to say, ‘Very tasty.’  A complement the poor flowers really didn’t relish.

I listened as a Wisteria vine, wrapped around the branch of monarch of a fir tree shouted as loud as it could; of all the woes of the flowers, into the tree’s ear.”

The Major pulled himself up as tall and straight as he could and in the most commanding voice he could muster.

“You think flowers have problems.”  The tree’s voice boomed over the top of all the meadow, through every path in the wood and out to the sea; “I stand as tall as a mountain and as strong and all I do is support a nest of birds, be a playground for a family of squirrels.  A waste, just a waste.” And the tree’s voice trailed off, his eyes closed and he seemed to drift off to sleep.  But the same lament was echoed by every other tree in the wood.  Then the trees once more stood tall, ridged and silent.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving in the wood.  It rustled a few leaves, had no voice of its own…and then I saw it clearly…a little dust devil.  As it twisted and darted its path through the deep wood; it was drawing ever closer to the sun lit meadow and it was carrying something, something very small.

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The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter 2

The Major walked to center stage and looking at his audience, more people than he would have imagined, his gaze fell on the eleven extraordinary people in the front row unconsciously bowing to them before he began.

In a voice with more bravado than uncertainty “Good afternoon all, I am Stephen P. Quickstep, simple teller of tales, at your service.” Well, I’m off to a start if not a good one, he thought.

Lowering his head he brought his right hand up to his chin, as if to stroke a beard or lost in thought.   Then in a wink, lifting his eyes to the gathering, “Do you believe Faeries, Pixies and Elves, you know the Dawn Folk?”  Before anyone could answer, with a wave of his hand as if brushing them aside, “No matter, most of the Dawn Folk that I have encountered don’t believe in people, they know we’re just tales they tell their children at night.”  Some of the audience chuckled.

“This story began with a knock on my door, a rather loud knock.  Expecting a person of considerable size to be calling, using the standard inverse ratio of sound to height…this sounded something like a battering ram) you can understand my surprise when before me was a very small man (with solid knuckles).  He stood about”…the Major stopped from indicating with his hand the height of his visitor; and drew on a more tangible reference.., “not much taller than the door knob.  The hair on his head and the hair of his beard were the color of flames and seemed to give off heat when you got too close to him.  His clothes seemed out of place, if not out of time.  But it was his smile that my eyes were drawn to first and in all the time that we would be together, that smile never faded, not for a moment.”

“It was in November that Charly (that was his I name I came to find out) came to visit.  Had it been December, I would have thought that Santa had sent a messenger, by way of an elf;  but this message wasn’t from Santa.”  The Major stood as if talking to someone on his right, he turned his head back to the listeners

“‘Stephen…’ Charly said.

“You know my name?’

…of course, Stephen P. (and I know about your grandfather’s quip) Quickstep.’

“How could you know about the P?  No one knows about the P?  I said in disbelief.

“‘Please, knowing names is easy…comes natural, but I know some things that you NEED to know…to set the record straight, as it were.  Histories…real ancient histories, histories that go so far back that they’re remembered only by the sun and the sea.’

“The sun and the sea you say…like in an adventure.  I was skeptical.

“‘Yup, you could say an adventure; but do you have the courage to go on that adventure?’  Charly waited a moment, ‘I got me a simple test of courage, right here.’  He reached into the outside right pocket of his forest green coat and pulled out a twig, a little twig with four small leaves clinging tightly to it.”  The Major squatted low and placed his hand in his pocket and slowly removed it holding a twig that was only seen in the mind’s eye.

“That’s your test, your test of courage?

‘Yup.’

“How does that work, this test, the twig will shiver and point at me if I’m worthy?

“‘Nope.’  He said as he bent over and placed the twig on the threshold of my front door, with his hand still on the twig, he looked up at me and said, ‘You’ll have to jump over the twig.  With your eyes closed.  Hands behind your back!  If you’ve the courage.’

“I quickly calculated my chance for serious bodily injury, they were close to nil.  I closed my eyes put my hands behind my back and jumped.”

The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter One

Every self help group in the world would have you list all of your accomplishments.  I have limited myself to: being able to fold a fitted sheet.

When time and tides swept me in to the mire of madness and depression and a string (a small string) of hospitals and treatments; I left behind my young son.  He didn’t and doesn’t understand doesn’t know me.

That was forty years ago.  Forty years ago I penned a series of fairy tales.  In those very simple, crude tales I told him about all the things that I, truly, believed in, what I valued and what I hoped to leave him.  He never received them, but I’ve carried them in my head and my heart for forty years; and oh how they have grown.  I hope that for you, they will have a life of their own.  I do know that they were always intended to be shared.

The Major and Darcy Weaver

“Miss Weaver,” the Major spoke to the young woman’s back.  Expecting a more immediate response to his address, he raised his voice to a more commanding tone, a more comfortable tone, for a Marine Corp officer, “Miss Weaver!”

“I answer to ‘Darcy’, Major, my mother was ‘Miss Weaver’ “, Darcy continued her walk to the VW bus.

“Miss…Darcy, what the hell are we doing here?”

With her head in the back seat of the bus her response seemed to echo, “You’re here to lose a Storytelling competition and I’m here to help you write about the experience.  Ah…here they are.”  Darcy threw several pieces of clothing at the Major, dug further through a collection of what appeared to be last week’s laundry.  “Yes, the hat…needs feathers, big, dumb feathers.  Feathers, where are the feathers…here? no…no…yes, yes…no, break one?…YES.”

The Major had no idea what was happening, or whatever was going through her mind.

The bus seemed to be swallowing Darcy up as less and less of her was visible and the pile of last week’s laundry seemed to be growing.

The bus, a poly-chrome green, well it was more like Jackson Pollack discovering every shade of green while designing a mobile Rorschach test, green.  It blended nicely with the trees that framed the parking area and yet not camouflaged; the Major, Darcy and the bus were alone in the early morning hours.  But those hours of solitude were swiftly passing as more vehicles arrived.

The cars, trucks and RVs filled the parking area.  The Major couldn’t see an exit, his pulse quickened; all the voices around began to blend into a maddening cacophony.  What were they saying?  What language?  He heard the scream again, who screamed?

No one else responded…The Major couldn’t breathe, in the cool of this mountain morning sweat was rolling down his brow, burning his eyes.

A small, gentle hand rested on his shoulder, “Major, in the bus, you’ve got to change.”

“Change?”  The word didn’t register.

“Yeah, change, take off the khakis and put on someone else, like the costume, the one you’re holding, become a storyteller…and don’t forget the hat…the hat sells it…and oh those feathers, love the feathers.”  Darcy almost swooned at the thought of the feathers.  The Major wondered which of the two of them had problems.

The Major climbed in the bus and noticed for the first time the garments he held; a forest green velvet coat, Edwardian style, brown wool trousers that resembled tree bark, with purple paisley braces, an off-white ruffled front shirt with lace cuffs, a tattered brown ascot, olive green sneakers with, international distress orange laces and The hat…a scarlet colored felt beef eater style, oversized…with feathers.  There were peacock tail feathers, one bent up, like a thin, colorful check mark and bright yellow-orange flight feathers pointing…down.

Just before emerging from the Rorschach test of a bus, he opened the door and asked, “What’s the bus’ name?”  Why did I do that, she’s going to tell me…it’s going to have a name, I know it’s going to have a name.

“Donnenel.”  Came the answer.

“What’s a ‘Donnenel’?” Why am I doing this to myself? The Major thought.

“A very lazy elf, he was a mess.  Let me see what you look like, let me see.”

The Major began to make his way through the pile of last week’s laundry that was the back seat of the, ever so green, VW bus when a scream stopped him.  “What are those, WHAT ARE THOSE, THOSE THINGS?”

As only his left foot had managed to make itself visible at that time, “You mean my socks? These ARE your shoes.”  He didn’t remember Darcy having size 11 feet so they really might not be ‘her’ shoes.

Not willing to face that yell again, he removed the olive green sneakers and then the regulation military issue khaki socks and replaced the shoes, sans socks.

“Better, they ruin the look.”  She tugged at the tail of his coat, pulled a sleeve down just a hair and stepped back to admire her handy work, “Much much better.”  The Major just raised one eye brow, the left, just enough to be discernable as he gave her a look.

“How has your prep been going, what have you done?”  She asked as she stepped back a pace to view him again.

“I’ve been reading all of Anderson’s, spent a weekend in B&N in their children’s section looking at contemporary things, I think I was being taken for a pedophile, and I don’t know…I don’t really get it.  Storytelling.”

Darcy slowly lifted her violet eyes from a speck of lint on his lapel, her back straightened, her hands in fists, rested squarely on her hips as she spoke and from the tone of her voice, he had no doubt who was in command.  “Most people will tell you that there are five elements of storytelling.  The setting: where the story’s taking place.  The character:  This is whom the story is about.  Plot: what’s happening.  Backstory: what happened before and how did it contribute to the current situation.  Detail:  which specific things should your audience notice.

“That’s all well and good, but when you are telling a story, not reading it aloud, not reciting a thing you’ve rehearsed over and over ’til it’s perfect.  Storytelling is about taking your audience someplace else.  Your biggest problem is figuring how you’re going to get them there, Major.

“We’re here to write an article about you losing a competition, a competition that no one has won in 37 years, because no member of the judging panel has ever been taken left this field, no one has gone ‘somewhere else’ .  You’re going to tell a story…you may lose, BUT, know this; you’ll walk back to Mountain View if you just quit.

“There are your judges, four very ill tweens, six vets; who like you are wounded, their scars are on the outside and that smiling little girl, blind since birth.  So…show me what you got soldier and it better be your best.”

What have I got?  You want a story that has hope, courage and paints pictures in the mind, he thought to himself.

“That’s what storytellers do.  And you forgot heart, gotta have heart.”  The Major never noticed Darcy was responding to just his thoughts.

“Darcy”, speaking softly, almost a whisper, “Darcy I don’t know that I have any of that…not any.”

“You forget, Major you’re someone else, you’re the storyteller.  You’ve got every story that you’ve ever heard, every dream you’ve ever dreamed to draw on.  Wasn’t there a time that you wanted to, had to, tell someone something, something important, and a story was the best of all possible ways, the only way, to say it.  A story for a child, an elder, someone you loved, for someone who was loved?”

The Major knew that in his life there were only the five letters, letters to the families of the men that were with him, with him then, and their responses.  Those responses he had never opened.  Afraid to accept that his letters failed to tell the story well, tell who their sons and daughter were; to him, to each other, to so much more than their country.  Not knowing that without those replies, the story would never be complete.

“No, no never.”  His head turned to the side, looking off in the distance at…nothing.

“Well, you’re going to today.”

The lighthearted lilt returning to her voice, “You might think that Major Quickstep doesn’t have enough of that, but today, today you are Shaman, and that is your stock and trade.  I mean would the Major ever dress like that?  What’s your first name, and if you say ‘Major’ I will slap you.”

“Stephen, its Stephen P. Quickstep.”  Sounding like a boy in grade school responding to an inquiry from a teacher, head hung down and scuffling his feet.

“What’s the ‘P’ stand for?” she was back to adjusting his costume.

“Oh, nothing, just my grandfather’s idea of a joke.”

“Stephen, I am in journalism, or at least a journalism class, and neither ‘Nothing’ nor ‘Joke’ starts with a ‘P’.  Never mind.  Let me fix that hat.”

“It doesn’t fit, it keeps falling down over one ear, and the feathers tickle.”

“Yeah…and it is sooo cute.  Just work it into the story.”

“What…?”

The Major was called to the stage and walking up those two steps to the small platform, he was thinking; Hope… Courage… light and dark… how do I get them there? Heart…He glanced up…thirty seconds…crap.

Is he really writing a sermon?

I should never clean my attic; found another notebook.  It would seem that in the early 90’s, a collection of confused individuals took me seriously; enough so that they invited me to offer a homily (or three).  The strangest part of this is that they invited me back after the first time.

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…” and although my dear Mom Moore would never approve, I’ve always gone with laughter as THE most joyful of noises.

I found my early notes for that first sermon…ready or not here it goes.

 

There once was a bright young turkey by the name of George.  George was raised on a ranch with about five hundred other turkeys (it was a turkey ranch).

Now the owners of this turkey ranch were good, I mean the very best Christian folk; they said grace over every meal, not just the “God is good, God is great, yeah God, let’s eat”, grace, they meant it.

There was a bible reading and discussion among the family every night and the children listened and asked questions and the adults listened to the children.  They held church each and every day.

And every day, George, the turkey, listened and he hoped that someone would ask the question he wanted to ask; sometimes they did and sometimes he just had to wait, and listen.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, just after the blessing of the meal that George let out a joyful AMEN (it sounded like ‘gobble gobble’ to the family); but, George knew, he knew what it was to believe, he was a Christian turkey.

He went back to the flock to share his new found faith; “Guys, guys…listen, we can fly!”  Bold opening.

“Uh, George, have you looked around, I mean looked real close…we’re turkeys you dumby.”

“I know, but if we believe, really believe, He will give us wings like eagles.”  George went on to tell them about love and grace and all the wonderful promises.  The flock walked away, laughing.  George that Christian turkey just smiled and kept on talking.

After a few days, two or three of the younger toms moved in George’s direction and asked a couple of questions, George answered and what he said made sense.  George invited them to church, hanging outside the kitchen window during Bible study.  Soon there were several ‘gobble gobbles’ as everything came together for a growing number of the flock.

Those birds close to George went out into the flock and shared all they had come to know.

The day had come, George stood before the flock and said, “Let us take up wings like eagles.”  Each and every turkey lifted their head and in a solemn tone, “Gobble gobble” rose up across the yard and five hundred turkeys began to fly.

It was a wonderment, all those butterballs soaring up into the clouds, darting about, laughing…until they got tired; then they landed and all walked home.

My questions to you are:  What kind of Christian turkey are you?  How soon are you going to quit and just walk home? Do you or do you not belong in the clouds, that truly is the way ‘home’.

Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Pray without ceasing and when all else fails, use words”

Pax

Throw-Away People?

Not long ago I promised myself that I would be here daily…and I haven’t.  I have been running through the house(s)  (mine. the octogenarians and my neighbors’) looking for things to fix; preferably those things that seem beyond repair and things to sharpen (knives, tools, my wit).

In all honesty, I am a simpleton; there are a great number of things that I just don’t understand.  If I can’t wrap my tiny little mind around an idea/concept; I fix things.

A simple tinker I am.

Should the Truth behind the concept totally escape me, the more elaborate the tinkering; I’m trying to repair an antique wall clock (never done it before) and I’m sharpening every knife, wood plane and ax on the block.

Tinkering is my path to the Truth; a clock is running properly or its not; a knife will cut or it won’t…a concept has Truth or it doesn’t; the perfect world for a simpleton.

John J., one of the octogenarians, father to the SWMBO, suffers from vascular dementia (according to Marion J., not nearly as much as she does).  The nature of this affliction is such that he will reach plateaus and then declines with no chance for improvement.  John’s declines have been happening in rapid succession, effectively shrinking his world.

John also has an abdominal aneurism that is growing, growing to the point that it is becoming life threatening.  The repair is a simple, out-patient procedure.

Thus far I have had no problem, certainly nothing that would drive me to my wet stones.

John’s doctor, a more than competent vascular surgeon, has suggested that doing the procedure would be a waste of time, considering the rapidly advancing state of his dementia.  “He probably won’t live more than two maybe three years longer.” (Quoting the doc, not me).

John remembers every classmate he had from grade 4 through high school; he’s told me (more than twice) about his time in WWII as a parachute rigger, the flood in ’62 to that devastated his home town, his adventures with his Dad and Uncle Joe at the Russian Club in Seymore, CT.

We share war stories and I listen, he likes to talk; he loves music and he reads a lot.  Is he a perfect specimen? Hell no.  Is he alive, fully living? I don’t know.

Over dinner the SWMBO, the octogenarians and me discussed his upcoming procedure, “Why am I doing this?” He asked.

“So you don’t die, Dad”.

“Oh, good…I don’t want to die.”

I am an uneducated old man and I have made few, if any, contributions to peoplekind, I’ve never held any title of note; other than: simpleton and tinker.

I fix clocks, pots, vacuums and gnomes; I play in the dirt and enjoy the company of children and madmen; I speak softly and when I laugh it can be heard for miles.

The Truth is: I can’t, I won’t, throw away a toaster if I can brown one more piece of bread with it.  I can find NO Truth in judging a man unworthy to live.

I’ve heard John’s tales many times and I will hear them many more (God willing); I will listen and ask questions…if only because it gives him joy.  But, his two young great-grandsons must hear his stories, they are their history.

Well, I have four knives in front of me right now that require my attention…and I will try not to think of all the other doctors across the land, that hold the life of a man or woman that is too old, too feeble, too poor, too simple to own the days, the months, the years that are rightfully theirs.

I am far too simple to find the Truth in that.

A Soldier’s (My) Prayer

Cleaning out some dusty corners of an earlier life, some 45 years ago, captured in a few notebooks.

God be in my morning, and in my awakening.

God be in my head, and in my understanding.

God be in mine eyes, and in my looking.

God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.

God be in my heart, and in my thinking.

God be in mine end, and at my departing.