The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Luna(r) Cycle

"I said that you don't have to believe me, and I certainly wouldn't...if I were in your shoes. But I can show you..." I repeated to the officer a second time, but gave up mid-sentence.

He continued to stare at me with blank, expressionless eyes.

I sat on the rickety, old picnic bench, at the entrance to the State Park. My appearance was very disheveled, bruised, and muddy. The abrasions on my wrists from the just removed handcuffs were sore and uncomfortable.

“But if you’ll just let me go to my truck and show you....” I started again.

“No!” barked the officer. He shined the light of the flashlight in my face again. It was harsh and bright. “We are not going to do that at this time.”

A sudden “squawk” came though the microphone that attached to the epaulets of his uniform. He reached up and pushed the button, turning slightly away from me.

“Dispatch, I have a male here, mid-to-late 50s...” he began,

My body started to quaver.

"Was I being arrested? What would happen?" these and other fearful thoughts washed through my mind.

With his having turned away from me, I could not concentrate well on the words that the officer was saying over the radio, and the fear was overwhelming my ability to think.

Without thinking, and with a shaky hand, I retrieved my tobacco pouch and pipe from the pocket of the jacket I was wearing. Reflexively, I filled the bowl of my pipe with the loose crumbles of rum-tinctured burley leaf. I then reached in my other pocket and retrieved my Zippo Pipe Lighter. With my thumb, I pushed open the lid, it made its distinctive, metallic clink.

The officer abruptly wheeled around. The look on his face showed a fierceness I would never be able to forget, and his hand was atop of his butt of his sheathed revolver.

I dropped both my pipe and my lighter. They clanked and clattered onto the concrete pad . Involuntarily, I wet myself slightly.

“Hands where I can see them!” he said harshly.

“Please, officer....” I stumbled over my words. My mouth was as dry as cotton bating.

He turned away again, and went back to talking on his radio.

* * * * *

My wife had gone to her sister’s earlier in the day and was staying with her overnight to help her as she recuperated from a minor foot surgery.

When I got home from work, I remembered that she would not be home. At first, I felt lonely, wishing she were with me. But then I thought, “Hell, I guess I’m going to be on my own tonight. I might as well have some fun.” and I grinned a wide, furry-faced grin.

After packing a few “supplies” for the journey, I hopped into my truck, and started the hour long drive across to the far outskirts of town. Reaching into the cooler sitting beside me, I untwisted the metal bottlecap off the ice cold, glass, amber-colored bottle, tossing it onto the floor, and took a long, deep drink, polishing it off in four swallows. I let the empty roll off the seat and onto the floor of the truck as I quickly reached for another.

“This ought to be fun!” I thought to myself, “Haven’t done this since I was a kid.”

It was already nearly dark when I reached the parking lot just off the road at the entrance to the State Park. Stepping out of the cab, I went to the back and took a kerosene lantern out.

“I ought to take one with me for the ‘road’ so-to-speak.” I thought to myself, knowing it was a long trek to get deep enough into the woods.

I opened the passenger door to my truck, and as I did so, the unmistakable sound of breaking glass was heard. One of the bottles I had tossed on the floor rolled out and shattered onto the pavement of the parking lot.

“Dammit!” I cursed under my breath. Yet, I didn’t want to let broken bottle destroy my mood.

“I’ll sweep it up when I get back.” I thought, and looked at my watch. “I better get moving!”

Very quickly I grabbed another of the long-necked amber bottles from the cooler. With a fresh beverage in one hand and the lantern in the other, I walked over a mile until I found myself deep in the forest. Lighting and hanging the lantern from a branch from a dead tree, I started back to my truck to get the other items I would need.

My mind was swimming. Memories flooded back to me of long, long ago.

I was just about back to the parking lot near the edge of the forest. I was tilting the bottle upward to drain the last drops of the beautiful fluid into my upturned mouth, when suddenly, I found myself sprawled onto the ground. I had tripped over an errant edge of a tree root along the dirt path. I cursed loudly from the pain, having wrenched my knee in the fall.

After a few minutes, the sharpness of the pain in my knee reduced enough, that I sat up and tried to look around in the rapidly-growing gloom of the early evening. The bottle I had been carrying had hit a boulder and the bottle broke, with the bottom 1/4th shattered. The rest of the bottle remained intact. With a groan, I eased myself up onto my feet and gingerly put weight on my knee. It was still sore, but fortunately I did not appear to do any permanent damage. I tried to wipe off as much of the dirt and mud from my clothes and face as I could, and then I picked up the bottle by the neck and pointed the broken end of the bottle away from me so I could throw it away when I found a trash can. I hobbled out of the forest into the parking lot.

Next to my truck was a police vehicle. Its siren was off, but the blue and red light bar atop the vehicle were flashing. The officer was looking at my truck and the broken glass near it. As I reached the pavement, I made a scuffing sound with my shoe because of the slight limp due to the soreness of my knee.

The noise made the Officer turn rapidly in my direction.

“Hold it right there.” was all he said, as he then aimed his flashlight towards me.

The Officer’s flashlight was exceptionally bright, as my eyes had grown accustomed to the gloom. Instinctively, I brought up my hands to shield my eyes from the harsh light.

“What is going on, Officer...” I begin.

The light glinted off of the broken bottle I still had in my hand.

“Put the weapon down, very slowly.” said the Officer in harsh, forceful voice.

His harshness startled me, and I let go of the broken bottle. It fell onto the pavement and shattered, splaying fragments of brown glass in all directions.


As he said that, the Officer quickly approached me and grabbed my arms and twisted them around behind me. The sound of the cuffs going around my wrists sent fear up my spine.

“Please, Officer, I can explain....” I stammered.

“Be quiet.” he growled.

He quickly frisked me, and finding nothing of interest, he told me to sit at the picnic table. He took the cuffs off of my wrists and instead put a larger ring around my ankle and around the leg of the picnic table as I sat. He then went back to his vehicle.

“How could I explain this to him?” I thought. I have to show him the equipment in the back of my truck.

Yet the fear that flooded through me helped me to realize how preposterous my story sounded, even to me. But it was the truth. I was out here, drinking root beer, and hunting for an elusive Luna Moth. I was in the same park that I had spent countless hours during the Summers when I was 11 & 12 trying to capture each and every species of moth I could find. I was here reliving some my youth, but it seemed so preposterous and foolish.

"If only I could get him to look in the cooler in my truck, he would see I had root beer, not beer. And if he would look into the back of my truck, he would see the insect nets and the other materials I had to collect moths." I thought.

But then, I groaned inwardly. "A lot of good that will do me. He'll think I'm even more of a lunatic if I tell him that." But I had to try.

The Officer slowly walked back towards me.

"I don't expect you to believe me, Officer, but..."

* * * * *


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Death by Suicide

Last night, my neighbor's 27 year old son shot himself in the head in woods behind his home. His heart is still beating and his body is being assessed for potential organ donation. Other than those minor beats of his heart, he is dead. His brain, and hence himself, is now gone.

Suicide is such a horrid, wretched, ghastly thing to do to a family. A family, a neighborhood, nor a community in which the person lived will never again be the same. While I can understand how excessively harsh torments can drive a person to contemplate such an action, anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one this way would never wish to inflict this devastation on anyone they care about.

It has now been 15 years since my niece took her own life. She was 17 years old, and a senior in high school. She was very bright academically, and had plans to go to college and become a teacher. She swallowed a container of her mother's hypertensive medications and then went to bed. She was found, awoken, and was alert and conscious, and taken to the hospital. She had her stomach pumped. Unfortunately, too much of the medication remained and she lost consciousness and her heart stopped, and no amount of shocking the heart muscle could get it to beat again. This was three days before Christmas.

Our family has never been the same since that date. I have tried to describe the changes in my own mind, and sometimes on paper, but the changes are both ephemeral and as solid as concrete. The changes have altered us in ways that I suspect none of us would have wanted to be changed.

It is harsh, and I am feeling horrible. I just want to cry, and sleep.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Flash Fiction Effort

Tumbling Tumblers

"The trouble with me is that I never realize how "in deep sh*t" I am until I'm choking on the stuff."
I said to Phil, my drinking buddy, as we sat at the lodge bar.

"Well, that's how it always is, ya know what I'm saying?" Phil said in a slurry sort of way. He was quite a few ahead of me in the boilermaker count thus far.

However, I was doing my best to catch up to Phil. Taking my pipe out of my mouth and gripping it by the bowl with my left hand, I reached over and grabbed the double shot-glass of whiskey setting before me and drank it down in a single gulp before chasing it equally as fast with a beer.

I waved at the barkeep to come over and give us both refills, and the fellow nodded. He was busy though at the other end of the long, U-shaped bar. It would be a while before he got back to us.

Phil hollered out to the barkeep, "Hurry up,why don't ya?"

"Shhhhh! Don't bother him, or he'll short our shots!" I genuinely guffawed at my comment. The booze was helping to shape my perceptions of humor.

Sticking the pipe back in my mouth, I relighted it, and then taking a hard stare at Phil, I said, "Tell you what, you haven't heard the half of it! Let me finish..."

I looked at Phil. His eyes swam around a bit loosely as he attempted to force focus onto my face. "All right." he said.

I took on the vestiges of fierceness. Pulling the brim of my snap-brimmed English cap down closer to my eyes, I tried my best to squint and stare at Phil simultaneously. I hunkered down in my barstool a bit and grimmaced, clenching the stem of my pipe more tightly between my teeth as I talked out of the other side of my mouth.

"I was at the crest of the long slope, staring down into the muddy crevasse far, far below"

Phil nodded, he remembered the area.

Making steering motions with my hands, I said, "And the hell of it was that I'd seen a sh*tload of people do something similar before, so I though I could do it too!

I glanced over and the barkeep was still far away. I itched at my cheek, where only an hour before my beard was caked thick in mud. A mud made from a soil of heavy clay. I could not believe how thick the mud had been. In the shower, I had allowed the stream from the showerhead to run down my face and through my beard and moustache for over 10 minutes, but even that still did not get it all washed out. The clay mud was tenacious, clingy, and vicious, Akin to an old lover, scorned.

Taking a long, deep pull from the stem of my pipe, I watched as Phil's eyes started to track towards the young waitress across the room, the one with the silicone enhancements.

"Sh*t! Stay focused, man!" I said animatedly as I pounded my fist on the bar, "This is the good part!"

The waitress flittered by, and her elbow brushed against Phil's as she brought a tray of food across the room. Again his focus diverted away from my story.

"I hadn't driven a Jeep in years!" I started, "And, yet it all came back to me, so easy."

I told Phil how I had found the 35 year old Wrangler for sale at an auction. I reiterated how I found it at a bargain basement price. And, I retold him about how I just had to have it, much to the chagrin of my wife.

"It brought back so many memories! And, hell, it ran like a top!" I added.

"Yeah, it was a good deal." yawned Phil, having heard all this before. "And now you drove it up here to the Jeep Jamboree, just like all of us did. That's what we're all here for."

"Fine." I stated, a bit chagrined at Phil's apparent boredom. I look away towards the bartender, "Hey, barkeep, can we get a couple more rounds here!" I holler, trying to change the mood.

The bartender eventually works his way over, and he pours both Phil and I each a double shot of Maker's Mark, and pours each of us a draft and places them before us.

"Make us another round too, so we don't have to keep bothering you. You're a busy man." I say trying to be lighthearted, but it comes out more with a tone of residual frustration because of my disappointment at Phil's lack of interest in my story.

The bartender fulfills my request. I say thanks, and pay for the rounds.

I keep trying to tell my story to Phil. I work hard to weave a brave yet beautiful tapestry about how I was facing a challenge in the Jeep and how I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that I could traverse the muddy span. I attempt to draw him in with humor about how as I ever so slowly inched down the crevasse into the muddy pit, about how my tire caught and flipped the Jeep on its side, landing it sideways in the mud, caking myself and the whole of the Jeep in the process. But Phil wasn't really paying attention. He was too far ahead of me in the beverage count.

I gave up in frustration. Phil and I both finished our drinks in silence. A little while after that, he stumbled off to his room.

I ordered another boilermaker, drank, and brooded.

The door to the lodge opened abruptly, and in streamed three young fellows. I recognized them at once as the trio I left at the crevasse with my Jeep. They hadn't seen my mishap, fortunately, for it was actually very foolish of me. They came along later as I was standing by the vehicle, up to near my hips in mud. They had arrived on a nearby trail, together in a trio tag-team. Their Jeeps looked mean and tough and capable of damn near anything. Seeing me, they stopped and told me they could get mine out of the mud for me, but it would take a while.

The biggest fellow of the three told me to wipe off as much mud as I could and to take and drive his Jeep up the trail and down to lodge. It was about 10 miles away. He said to wait for him there.

Thinking to myself as I drove the kid's Jeep to the lodge, "I hope they are able to get it out. I don't know what I would tell my insurance company about the situation if it was forever stuck in that damn mud hole."

But here they were, a few hours later. Hopefully it worked...

"Professor, we got it out for you. It looks pretty good, just a little dent on the hood." said the big fellow. He had a bulky body and a short crew-cut. He smiled amiably.

"Yeah, with the winch on mine, and Tom's winch on his, we got yours upright and out of the mud real easy." said another as he motioned toward the third friend in the back of the cluster of three. Apparently, that was Tom.

"How'd you flip it like that, going down that hill anyhow?" stated Tom.

I hesitated a moment, thinking of a comparison between reality and a real... story.

I smiled a broad, furry-faced grin, and motioned them to sit down. Then I thought it even better to move to a table. I ordered drinks all around for each of us.

"Sh*t...." I drawled out slowly, "Let me tell you how...." I started to reweave the story as I unzipped my tobacco pouch and filled my pipe.

* * * * *


Monday, April 12, 2010

Bus Buzz Busy

I would like to be drunk as a skunk, but I am at work and feel like a clerk. Soon I will start to cuss and head into my bus and traverse home.

Or perhaps I will roam? I need a comb... for my beard... so I do not feel so weird.


Monday, April 05, 2010

The Start of A New Week

It has been a rough few weeks, but I am wading through all the stressors at work. I am finding a bit of an even-keel. I must admit it is challenging however. It is the same old b*llsh*t... too many "issues" to handle for students, too many idiotic "issues" to handle for administration, not enough time to do the teaching and research preparation I would like to do to my satisfaction.

I am bumping up my exercise routine to a bit higher level. This is occurring in three parts. One, I am stretching out my walk to a longer interval, two I am working on getting back in to jogging at least part of the distance now that the ice and snow are gone, and three, I am putting a more concerted effort into weight training (this third one is still my Achillies Heel so to speak, as I am not as fond of it, but I am working on it).