Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Jasper Flynn is counting beers, at his Inn, at the foot of Vinegar Hill.  He knows one day his staff will tally up and forget to replace their theft. The bottles make chiming and chain mail sounds, sliding sometimes gritty and most other times smooth against their siblings.  And Jasper reaches the end of each series with the sound of two numbers in agreement, "damn!"

Honesty can make a man wonder what's come of the world.

The South bound Canada Geese spy fire to the east, and indeed Delores and Faith are bending down low to  plow tent stakes into the clay, their hips giving their arriving friends the ardent generosity of their asses, which later they discuss with chortals and peals of laughter, annoying the dignified at hand.  Burbling stew and glasses of beer spell warmth in the unseasonable cool of the farmyard.  Lightning bugs long gone.

Michael peers out in the blue twilight sky, between limbs of his heavily wooded break that obscure it.  He'd been cutting fallen trees all the warm season through, and now, with a sigh, as old as man's longing, he looked back to his wall to a lighter not touched since May.  A beautiful hand assembled thing that his nephew had dropped once and been shocked to hear Mike say, "Oh, Goddammit!" at the theft of the rightness of design, by gravity, implicated in the explosive ping, of the lighter on the garage floor.  But the lighter was fine, and Mike was in the doghouse with his sister for two months.  And still... Winter would come.

"Only in Heaven," heard Pastor Anderson for the twelfth time today, from Jaykita Paulen who had just delivered the news of her pregnancy, and the circumstances of its cause.  "In heaven, there are children, but no reasons... for them---- right?" asked Jaykita.  Pastor nodded his lie and patted the burdened child's shoulder, with his smile that had been the foolish reason that brought him to this position answering questions no mortal should hear.  Everyone loved the ivory in his mouth, and only he was left bereft of it's evidence without benefit of a mirror.

Mr. Nolsen pushes hard on the latch to his paddock, but it sticks just as fast as the last.  "Come on..." he says in a coaxing manner to the cold and neglected manifold of rust and old paint.  He lifts like he used to (until he found jerking to work better.)  And he'd already jerked, for some time.  But the gate would not lift from its latch.  He has at his side, a pile of broken pumpkins, brought by his old friend Gravey.  "Just thought these old broken things, that nobody wants, might get a trot outta' your cows," Gravey said smiling.  Nolsen thanks Gravey and gives him some of the dead last Broccoli and somewhat lingering Brussell's Sprouts, he had picked in the morning, before tilling over the garden.  He'd hated watching these plants fall apart.  It reminded him of necessary aches and dreadful themes.  And Nolsen was a whistling man (alone or in company), more likely to confuse the young, jaded and stern generation of today, than delight them with his aphorisms said with such feeling.  Eventually the even tempered, whistling Nolsen yells, "Goddammit! You cotton pickin sonofabitch!"  And kicks at the paddocks gate, causing the whole of the gate and it's two rotting cedar posts to fall flat, like a comedy prop, at plain odds to his plans.  "Damn," he says now softly, knowing the rebuke of the fates when he sees it.  "Damn."

Nolsen's  old, arthritic horse, Cindy, watches Nolsen from the next gate.  She's got her own paddock that he tends for her alone.  Sometimes he puts Tracey in to keep company, but this evening Tracey's with Nolsen's granddaughter, and Cindy munches thoughtlessly on Chicory, Timothy, and a trace of hairy Clover.  Presently Cindy hears the screaming of her old friend, and stops chewing, the better to remember when exactly she'd last heard it.  It hadn't been recent she knew.  So with that she continued to chew.  Then as she looked more closely at Nolsen she noticed the gate was flat on it's face or back (horse and man would certainly wonder) and the tall grass beyond it tickled her lips to look upon it.  She slowly walked with her stuttering hoof beats of age, and Nolsen, once he saw her, that old desire for grass in her eyes, forgot all about the Goddammed gate, and reached to the face of his friend, smiling, "Cindy."  Next to the broken pumpkins, now forgotten, he reached down and gathered a few apples from a basket his late wife so loved (and until she died, he'd thought pointless) and held their lightly scabbed surfaces to the wet sturdy certitude of his old friends teeth and desire. "Cindy."

I guess that about said it for today.


Jenny said...


Intriguing and intense story. The smells of earth and wood appear strongly. There is something timeless and enigmatic about the gate. I come to think of Steinbeck’s fine writing when I read this. The horse’s chewing creates an interesting tempo in the final section.

Nice writing.

Ande said...

I was delighted to read your story. So much of what I gather as traditional “north America” in it with the smell of old wood and closeness to people. It’s sounds like the kind of place Jack Kerouac always longed for, but never found. I guess its a kind of place most people long for, myself definitely included.
Fine writing.

Andy Coffey said...


Thanks for reading. The other day I was invited by a customer of mine to attend a gathering on a local farm, where small fires were lit and rustic food and beer was served for about 100 people. I arrived just as the sun was setting and immediately saw an old friend, with deep red hair, Shannon, and talked with her and her husband and her boy, Tolling throughout the evening. Lovely couple of hours.
As I was returning home in the dark, I thought of all the things other people might be doing, who I have known through the years. When I got home I wrote this piece. With a bit of poetic license, of course. It was great fun. Thanks.

Andy Coffey said...


Just as I started answering your, and Jenny's comments, one of the characters in the story, Michael (which is his real name) called me, and apologized for "losing track of me" during the picnic I mention in the story. I have no idea why he thought it was his responsibility to entertain me, but he's an awfully nice guy. So it was fun to tell him that I was writing back to you, about a story somewhat about him, just now. He sounded a little bewildered by this, but, no big deal.
I think in many ways might lack of ambition for bright lights and a big city gives me what is denied to certain other people. Then again, I think a lot of unsophisticated people enjoy what more sophisticated people can only dream of. It is certainly true that if I wanted to I could torture myself by concentrating on the fact that I stand between two worlds: one simple and one incredibly complex. However, for some people, such strange footing is a blessing. I number among them.
Thanks, Ande.

Wine and Words said...

Intimate portraiture. I loved the ass driven stakes. Vision, smell, emotion. I got it all here. Rural is about a mile away from me. So close, and yet so far. Here people repair garage door openers and pick apples from the grocery store. Ugh!

Andy Coffey said...

Wine and Words,

Thanks for your comment.
Yeah, rural is real close to me. Always has been. There has always been a pumpkin field close at hand. Not always a coffee shop, or real pub, but always pumpkin fields full of children and soul.

A gentleman who used to deliver pizza's for me thirteen years ago told me, "out here, boy, we work, then we drink some beer. Now I don't know what you THINK about after work, but I've gotta habit of not thinking at all." His point, as I am sure you can tell, is that things are done a little more in the moment in the country, than perhaps even at the Esalen Institute. And I am rather sure you know where that is. Thanks, Wine and Words. Love seeing you here.

Harlequin said...

I like the simple power of the mundane world made so present by your lean and observant descriptions; this was so well done.

Andy Coffey said...


I have noticed time and again that people with conventional "happy" lives, live in fear. Whereas, people (like so very many you know) who are marked by difference they cannot hide, live seemingly more "happy" lives. Perhaps I am wrong, but the mundane world seems, more or less, like the place where boredom and fear are hard to find.
The people in the story are friends and acquaintances of mine. Funny, sad, brave, angry, sweet and soulful, if you were to ask a big nosed bald guy.
Thank you for your tender and thoughtful comment. I rather liked writing this, and came up with the idea while walking (feeling intensely happy) home from a feast that the leaders of our local Co-Op invited me to. I don't belong to the Co-Op, I'm not much of a joiner. But it's funny, I sure as hell belong, just about anywhere in my blessed town.
Thank you very kindly.