Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Famine of Festivals

A Famine of Festivals
©2013 Kirby Sanders

There lurks within us all a remnant of the American Innocent who loves our local festivals. Every town and county and community has them. Yes there are the archetypal County Fairs, but also we have our smaller versions — where communities themselves gather to celebrate the bounty that binds them.

The spring, summer and fall harvest and “hell let’s just have a party” weekends that towns arrange simply to recognize and celebrate themselves as communities. The Athens TX Black Eyed Pea Festival — the Gilroy CA Garlic Festival — the Sparta WI Butter Festival — the DeKalb IL Cornfest — The Pella IA Tulip Festival — the Hatch NM Chile Festival. Even mammoth Houston TX has its high-profile remnant in the Livestock Show and Rodeo. Fort Worth has its Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering. I think Dallas has an annual Visit Your Money in the Bank day — or something like that.

Heritage Days, Pioneer Days, Stagecoach Days, Railroad Days — events where the community gathers to recognize who they are, why they are and what makes them a community. One people bound together in some small way or another.

Even the generic small college town springfests are fun and quaint in their own way — spring break for the kids too broke to expose themselves in Cancun with their demurely naughty bed races and bar hops along “the strip” leading into the campus.

We all know how the festival days go. Mom says “don’t get those new britches and dresses dirty.” Dad gripes because old man Johnson wants five bucks to park in his yard. The town square is packed with people. The twirlers twirl and the marching band plays. Blue and red and white ribbons festoon the favorite homemade pies and preserves and the Queen of The Whatever waves from her perch on the boot of a snazzy convertible. Local musicians play and cloggers clog and folklorico dancers swirl atop stages that are really flatbed truck trailers. Carnies shill games and rides on a carnival midway. Politicos make some boring speeches, the bank and the churches hands out free pencils and everyone runs off to see what treasures the local vendors have to offer.

These are the only places in the world where you can sample jalapeno ice cream or blackeyed-pea pie. The places where your first memories of the exotic and the unusual reside. Where Oddly Ollie the clown (whom everyone knows is really the creepy coach) performs and entertains or frightens small children.

Sometimes these community festivals celebrate only memories. There is one wonderful Grape Fest in a town that hasn’t produced a single grape in better than 50 years. Another with a Pickle Fest in a former company town where the pickle factory shut down in 1952. But it doesn’t really matter — the festival is the festival. Grapes are grapes and pickles are delicious and those are what made those towns into towns.

But there is a growing blight in the crop, creating a famine for our festivals. Corporate sponsorship.

What brings this to immediate light is a recent situation in Johnson County, Arkansas. Their annual Peach Festival is coming up — but local growers have been banned from selling or sharing their crops at the festival. A certain “largest retailer in the world” has sponsored the festival — and announced that they will supply all the peaches. Local producers not allowed to show or sell. The local producers are up in arms — but banned and helpless.

The twirlers will twirl and the marching band will play. The Johnson County Peach Queen will wave and smile from her perch on the boot of a snazzy convertible. The community will be judiciously directed past the cleanup on aisle five and Muzak will fill the gleeful air. Blue and red and white ribbons will festoon the coolers containing frozen pies by Marie Callender, Sara Lee and Paula Deen.

The producers whom the festival celebrates will be relegated to their truck stands on the outskirts of town. Hoping to snag an occasional wayward consumer away from the corporate orgy.

What lovely memories are we leaving to our children?

A Quiet Conversation

This piece is (admittedly) about a year old. It was published in the anthology “Biohazard 2012” by BeanPods Press of Roswell GA. Offered as incentive Is my contribution
***

A Quiet Conversation ©2012 Kirby Sanders

Originally published in the anthology Biohazard 2012 via BeanPods Press, Roswell GA

Just after sundown of a November eve –- south of Blackburg. The road through the woods hereabouts gets real close when the sun goes down. Seems like the trees come walking closer to the road and huddle together against the chill.
And a decided chill there was–but an odd chill. Couldn’t tell if it was coming from outside or inside, but I wrote it off as being November in Blackburg. Either way, it was time to find some shelter and build a fire. Take some rest for the night.
There’s a small overhang in the bluff over there–trees bunched real tight at the mouth, blocking the north wind. It’s been a long time since I slept with any roof over my head. That little cave in the escarpment looks pretty inviting.
Fine as the Breathitt House in Atlanta! But this ground has been tramped hard–and I declare that looks like a campfire ring. I’ll be switched. That looks like another fellow in the shadow by the far wall.
Hello the camp! Do you mind if I share your fine accommodation to get myself out of the biter wind? I’d be obliged. Looks like your campfire has gone cold. Let me refresh it and get us a cheery fire to warm our bones.
I take it that your silence is assent.
Gathering firewood, I notice there is abundance at the mouth of the cave. Odd to be so much so near to an occupied place. Perhaps this unfriendly wind is obliging us one small kindness–shaking down dead branches for our fire pit. No matter. In short order we have a presentable flame comforting the enclosure, although it casts no light into my companion’s shadow.
Thank you again, friend. My name’s Pierce. I run –- well ran–Pierce’s hardware in Greenbrier. Down by Fort Smith. I notice my companion has made no move to accept the business card in my outstretched hand and look at the paper dumbly. Stupid thing for a man to be carrying anymore. Since the sickness, there ain’t no Pierce’s Hardware. No Greenbrier either and damned little of Fort Smith, for that matter. I cast the card into the fire.
I’ve been traveling for the last several weeks since the sickness took hold. They say a college girl brought it into Greenbrier. Ellen Jacoby. She come home ill from Georgia State. They say the sickness started from Atlana. Something brought in by a traveler, maybe. Any which way, Ellen took sick and then her momma took sick. Soon enough the sickness was marching through town with a vengeance.
Bodies everywhere. And they were burning the houses to try to stop the spread of the disease. Soon enough, our town looked like hell to me.
My wife took sick first in our house. Mary was a good woman. Kindly. Doc said she probably got the sickness taking food to the Jacoby’s for their grieving — nothing he could do. Nothing anyone could do. First son Ambrose took sick second. He volunteered for the burning crew. Probably got the sickness from one of the infected houses. Or from his momma. Then Anna, then Alton.
I‘ve got their pictures here. But I suspect you don’t care to see them.

Eventually, I was the last one standing. No undertaker would touch my family. Cemetery wouldn’t take them. Buried them in the back yard with my own hands.
I never got too sick. Kept the Hardware open. Folks needed shovels (lots of shovels). They wanted hammers and nails to tighten up the houses–but it didn’t do any good. After a while, I was damned giving stuff away. Nobody had any money. Nothing left to trade. I couldn’t get fresh stock in from anywhere. Time came the shelves were empty and there weren’t any more customers. I shut it down. Not enough town left to warrant my staying. So I left.
But I guess my story ain’t much different than yours, friend. Tell me if you want me to quit telling. I’ve got a can of beans here. I’ll warm them up and set you some over there by your side of the fire.
My companion remained silent.
I passed through Fort Smith. A few folks had occupied the old fort. But they made it very clear that they didn’t want any new friends. Drove my car as far as I could until it ran out of gas. Took another car from a farmhouse after that. I don’t reckon I stole the car. Obvious the folks in the farmhouse were never going to need it again.
I took to scavenging canned goods from the houses I passed by. Didn’t want to hunt game or fish. Figured the animals might have the disease too–but the canned stuff was probably o.k. Didn’t get sick, anyway.
It’s been many a mile and many a day since then. All of the towns I’ve passed through where there was folks alive is very much like Fort Smith. They aren’t taking in strangers, so I just keep moving on. Never thought I’d go from being a comfortable merchant to wanderer in the wasteland.
The fire had warmed the cave to a comfortable state and a bellyful of hot beans was bringing on sleep.
Good night, friend. Thanks for indulging an old man’s story. I look forward to hearing your tale come morning.
Slept the sleep of the righteous until the golden dawn played its light into the little cave. The sunlight brightened my companion’s corner–and even weary eyes could tell he was dead. Very dead. Probably several weeks ago.
Gathering my things and moving on again, I bid my companion adieu.
See you again, my new-found friend–somewhere down the road, I am certain.

***

I invite you please to consider the anthology for your reading list and enjoy the other works by several co-contributors. Available in paperback, Kindle and B&N Nook formats. Contact publisher at http://www.beanpodspress.com/

Flight of the Felis Familiaris

The Flight of the Felis Familiarius

©2013, Kirby Sanders.

Have you ever noticed that there are never any cats on the bridge aboard ship in outer space movies? There’s a reason!



The Evil Alliance is pursuing and attacking our underdog heroes! The valiant Capitan Weit Leche Carton shouts “Get us out of here, helmsman — Burp Six!!!”

Helmsman Mr. Yohoo replies “Working on it, sir. Dammit cat, get off the control panel!”

Capitan continues “Ready weapons! I want plastic torpedos in tubes one and two. Fire on my mark in five, four, three …

Weapons officer – “Direct hit, sir! They are breaking off! We have disabled their nacelle cavity!”

Capitan Weit Leche Carton — “But … I didn’t say ‘fire.”’

Weapons officer: “Damned cat!”.

Capitan Carton – “Security! Mr. Dork! I want that cat off my bridge! Now!”

Mr. Dork, a hulking alien warrior looking dude who is oddly alluring in a Mandingo sort of way, approaches the Weapons Control panel. Cat leaps from control panel and runs across the room – hides under a console at the far wall. Mr. Dork pursues. Cat hisses from behind the panel as Mr. Dork attempts to get his arm into the small space.

Capitan Carton – “Mr. Dork! Status report?” I want that cat off my bridge!”

Mr. Dork – “I can’t reach him, sir. He is back behind the recalcitrance rectifier and the inanimate object.”

Capitan Carton – “Communications! Ms. OhHerWho! Get Commander Dada up here to retrieve his damned cat. Ensign YooHoo – assist Mr. Dork.”

Helmsman Mr. Yoohoo – “Not a good time sir. We seem to be taking a Delta Fawcett evasive maneuver pattern. I can’t control it, sir. I believe the cat has interfered with the inanimate object controls!!!”

Capitan Carton – “Stand your ground Mr. YooHoo. I didn’t order evasive maneuvers! Delta Fawcett? Which one is that?”

Mr.YooHoo – “It’s the pinwheel like nutcakes, I think we’re going to crash into the nearest moon ruse. The Kubiashi Moron maneuver developed by Capitan Quirk in the Grapes of Wrath of Cahn.”

Capitan Carton – “Ah yes, Cahn. The depraved guy from the studio exec’s office attempts to control the universe …”

Comm officer (Ms. OhHerWho; on shipwide intercom) – “Commander Dada! Commander Dada! Report to the bridge immediately. Capitan’s orders. Bring a can of catfood.”

As the ship spins out of control, an Evil Empire Firebird (circa 1967) decloaks off the starboard bow of the intrepid USS Entertainer (That’s the left front of the ship if you are facing forward from the rear of the ship – I think. I don’t remember.)

Gnarly looking Evil Empire captain – “Ooot de smook the dune niew?”

Gnarly looking Evil Empire helmsman – “Zoom wired sheet. Fosho! Delta Fawcett?”

Back on the bridge of the USS Entertainer. Commander Dada arrives on the bridge. He is  humanish looking android – pale and pasty, and his face looks like a collaboration between HP Lovecraft and Pablo Picasso. “Dada reporting as ordered, sir.”

Capitan Carton – “Get that damned cat of my bridge – and airlock the catbox in your quarters. The entire corridor stinks!”

Commander Dada joins Mr. Dork on the floor by the far wall and says comfortingly “Spot! Spot! Out, out, damned Spot!” as he sets a can of replicated Hot Tuna on the floor. The Hot Tuna immediately begins playing the song “Uncle Sam Blues” and wafting a fishy aroma through the bridge.

Capitan Carton “I do love those classical tropes.”

Spot complies and comes to Commander Dada.

Mr. YooHoo – “Capitan, we are out of freefall. But I’m not sure where we are. It looks like the dog star – Sirius.”

Mr. Dada carries Spot toward his quarters, but pauses at Mr. YooHoo’s station.

Commander Dada (to YooHoo) – “The tail formation is too long and the ears of the twin nebulae are too pointed. Surely it can’t be Sirius.”

Mr. Yoohoo – “It looks like Sirius. And don’t call me …”

Capitan Carton – “Mr. YooHoo! Clsssical tropes only or stand down on report! Ms. OhHerWho – report from the away team we left on the surface?”

Ms. OhHerWho – “Three redshirts down. One gold shirt asking to beam aboard. Communications are erratic and the enemy’s Ronald RayGuns are disrupting transporters.”

Commander Dada departs to quarters and sets Spot in the sitting area. Per orders, he gathers up the catbox. He re-opens the door (ssshhhh-whoosh) and dumps the catbox into the nearest disposal airlock.

Cut to viewscreen of the Evil Empire ‘67 Firebird. Suddenly, the viewscreen is obscured – blinded – by a collection of grit and adhesive brown semi-solids.

Gnarly Evil Empire Captain – “Woot the smook bedat!??

Gnarly Evil Empire helmansman – “Censors innicate keetsheet, Sir!”

Gnarly Evil Empire Captain – “Keetsheet? In spece? Prepusto ye indigesto!”

Gnarly Evil Empire helmansman – “Postdigesto, zeer. Unable to klir screen or censors. Offensive to both nacelle cavities! Loosing pwer – both nacelle cavities.”

Gnarly Evil Empire Captain  –  “Evad! Evad! Retour to Emiire.”

The Firebird veers off pursuit and recloaks.

Back on the USS Entertainer bridge.

Mr. YooHoo – “Second Emire ship breaking pursuit. Course 50167392586.pi. I have no idea where they re going. Very erratic flight pattern, but it appears they are headed for the neutered zone.”

Capitan Carton – “Looks like a miracle got us out of the box. Make it go, Mr. YooHoo.”

Ms. YeahHerWho – “Gold shirt away reports all redshirts vaporized. Requesting immediate transport back to ship.”

Back at Commander Dada’s quarters. Commander opens door to return empty catbox. As door ssssh-whooshes open, Spot races out the door and down the corridor to transporter room. Commander Dada chases. Door closes and secures as Spot runs in. Open comlink hears desperate Goldshirt begging for immediate extraction. Communication broken and spotty.

Goldshirt – “Unidentified interference. Sudden atmospheric rain of grit and viscous brown matter. Beam up immediate, please!”

Spot smacks a paw on a button on the transporter panel. “Meow! Meow! Rrewr Rrewr! Purr Purr.”

Goldshirt – “Unable to comprehend transmission. Garbled. Please resend via universal translator. Please – hurry. Environment toxic.”

Spot smacks a paw on another button on the transporter panel. Repeat transmission – “Meow! Meow! Rrewr Rrewr! Purr Purr.”

Goldshirt – “Received and acknowledged via translator. Thank you, thank you, thank you. One to beam up, Mr. Spot.”

Capitan Carton, Mr. Dork, Commander Dada and Dr. Waverley Wafer burst through the door as an exhausted Goldshirt materializes on the transporter pad. Dr. Wafer rushes to the inert man. Spot jumps off the  transporter console and into Commander Dada’s awaiting arms.

Capitan Carton – “Mr. Dada. I want that cat confined to your quarters hereafter.”

Commander Dada – “Yes sir. Immediately sir.”

Capitan Carton – “Contact the bridge. Tell them to make it go!”

Spot – “Meow! Meow! Rrewr Rrewr! Purr Purr.”

Alone Aloft

Alone Aloft
© 2013 – Kirby Sanders

Alone,
aloft,
beyond the fray.

Unafraid of life
or death —
the wind blows this way,
the tide pulls that way.
A balloon untethered
wishing for a string.

It is deliciously bland
up here.
Nothing but hues of blue
and white.

The adventure is in looking down
at the brown
of decay —
nasty stains of exploitation
and the crimson blood
that so enamors humanity.

I want none of that.
I want to sing with the lightning
and dance to the music of thunder.
To be the balloon untethered
sailing for my brief moment
in the beautiful blue bland.
Knowing that when I burst
I become a part
of that beautiful big blue bland.

Alone
Aloft
Unafraid
Untethered.

Free.

We Darkness

We Darkness
© 2013 – Kirby Sanders

Are we darkness?
Yes
but no.

We are but people
standing in the darkness
developing keen eyes.

Anyone can see in the sunlight —
sufficiently so to be blinded.

But the wise eyes are those
who can pick out tiny shadows
and illuminate them in their minds.
Those who can cast inner brilliance
into a bleak landscape.
Those who can shine their eyes
on a difficult path
and reveal pitfalls
impossible to see.

We darkness
are those who will lead
not when the day is
shining with cunning.
Not when the path
is even, straight and narrow.

We are the ones who will lead
when situations are dire
and twisted
and the sun might not rise tomorrow.

We are the prophets willing
to tell you what you need to hear,
not the profiteers
who tell what you want to hear.

Do not damn those who can see in the dark.
Thank them for helping
to raise the sun
and bring about better day.

Death of the American Dream

Death of the American Dream
©2013, Kirby Sanders

Yeah — in a way I could miss the 1950s. But only in childhood dreams.

I was born in 1952. It wasn’t easy. I was kind of sickly. But Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone and Lone Ranger on the radio and later on the teevee were good guys — righteous. So were Zorro and the Swamp Fox and Robin Hood. They defended the weak and downtrodden. They were voices for a growing nation — reliant in the knowledge that everyone’s efforts would be needed to bring a society to greatness. They gave me things to live for. Purposes and goals.

Frontier women were respected and strong figures. Often as fallible as the men themselves. NOT the June Cleavers who wore pearls to vacuum the living room. Those women were jokes (as were their weakling husbands).

Sometimes I still smile at old pictures of me in my kid get-ups as a cowboy or in scruffy slacks and a coonskin cap. I was barely aware of Joe McCarthy (Dad thought he was “nut” — and disillusioned with Eisenhower for not standing up.)

Moving into the 1960s, I thought John Wayne was a schmuck; Roy Rogers was a live-action cartoon — but Sky King and Penny were cool, as were Chuck Connors as “The Rifleman” and Crusader Rabbit. Crusader Rabbit was a cartoon cartoon that eventually morphed into Rocky and Bullwinkle and (one might argue) even later Calvin and Hobbes.

Come about 1963, I was 11-years old. President Kennedy was assassinated and the downtrodden were being murdered just for not being white. The police were hiding the murders (if not complicit) — and everything I learned from Davey and Daniel; Lone Ranger, Swamp Fox and Zorro; Chuck Connors started to appear as though it had been lies.

Through the latter 1960s and into the 1970s, the lies became blatant. Murders were perpetrated and hidden by the powerful. Vietnam was an obvious quagmire with no higher goal whatsoever. Nixon was a crook who declared “I am not a crook” – and a bunch of idiots bought it.

Come the 1980s, I saw Reagan parlay “voodoo economics” into a dismantling of the American economy — trading with enemies to enrich his own goals. By time of the Savings and Loan collapse, I had a small bit of money built up with which to pursue dreams. It disappeared overnight when new policies did what they were intended to do and tanked the small investors.

1990s – the Bushes built a power base on old school bigots, Nazi sympathy money and people who bombed doctors’ offices. The transformation was almost complete. America was no more.

The rich and powerful bought the nation — with the intention of driving it to ruin for their own profit. If you ain’t in — you ain’t gonna get there.

Yeah — in a way I could miss the 1950s. But only in childhood dreams. Contemporary TeaBag reality has strangled them all — gradually and intentionally.

RIP, Davey and Daniel and Zorro, Rifleman and Swamp Fox. We who remember will join you soon. The American Dream is over.