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.

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Birthday Songs

Reviewing notes left over the decades in moleskins tucked away in boxes here and there.

Turning 60

I never thought much about life,

Spent many long hours, dwelling on death

Never saw a contribution as possible

Tomorrow, yes it is tomorrow

I’ll own 6 decades…

And now, now

There are things I want, need to do

Lord help me…I have goals

Where do I find any help

To reach those ends?

I discovered a story

It must be told.

In a new language

Foreign

A language

Of hope

Don’t know

Where to begin

But can’t stop movin’

Or I’ve died already.

Wise men have said;

Know but on tounge

You are ignorant

Know but one faith

You’re a fool

Stop laughing at yourself

And you’ve

Lost

Your sense of humor

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.

Jan. 3

The sun is brilliant this morning not a cloud to be seen.  Standing in “the shop” (my half of a two car garage) housing all the yard tools, garbage cans, paint racks, ‘mule bench’, miter saw and table saw; three projects await me.  Its 15 degrees out, little will be done.

Moving right along, the laundry awaits, followed by folding and light ironing (more of the SWMBO’s birthday gift).

The octogenarians have arrived, not a good sign.

It would seem that the SWMBO has hired me out.  The octogenarians need to have a towel rack installed in their downstairs loo and a new sink, and toilet and floor and would I be so good as to look at Mom’s computer.  They did offer payment.  I am now the proud owner of a gift cert for a pedicure at Kelly’s Nail Salon.

I am not going to pass this on to the SWMBO.   Any suggestions on nail colour?  I will send a snap after.  I’m sure I won’t be the only guy there.

Have a grand day.  Stay safe, stay warm and know that you are loved.