To every thing, there is a season…Mike Stang reminds us

Literati. I am sitting in the towers that are A Word with You Press in sunny downtown Moscow, eating mint moose tracks and looking at all the stories that are still to be posted.  I am in awe of our joint shared creation.  We have over fifty entrants, each one who in some way interacted …

Literati.

I am sitting in the towers that are A Word with You Press in sunny downtown Moscow, eating mint moose tracks and looking at all the stories that are still to be posted.  I am in awe of our joint shared creation.  We have over fifty entrants, each one who in some way interacted with Peggy Dobbs, for whom this contest is named.  I did not shed a tear when my mother died, for reasons unknown, but like many of you, could not hold them back to hear that Peggy left us. AND NONE OF US EVER MET HER! Does that not speak to the power of the internet? Our relationship to her and to each other is as palpable as if we were neighbors with a handful of sugar knocking on the door to borrow a cup. I for one am so grateful to live in this age. The sting of separation with my son is diminished by skype, though he is half the world away in Berlin. And who among us does not somehow expect Peggy Dobbs to persuade St. Peter to grant her internet access for an hour or two to enter her own contest?

Here is a note I got from Mike Stang accompanying his third and final entry into our contest:

“This contest, these stories. One by one after another, the Titan’s enter bringing the hammer down and still there is so much time to go. Peg soars. Her spark, when she was alive and so much a part of all this is ten-fold. She blesses us like the Holy Ghost. I swear I have felt her loving hands on my shoulders.

I look a year from now as the writers remember her in a different way. Seasoned, less personal, patina. And the years thereafter when we all realize how much Peg is still with us all.

I think of her as a national treasure. Can you imagine being one of her grandchildren and
sleeping over for the weekend, waking up on Saturday morning? Lord almighty knows.

Thank you, Thorn for making this possible. The playground will never be the same.

I submit my third and last entry into the hat. May our dear girl rest in peace.

Mike”

And here is

POP

For Miss (it’s just) Peg

by Michael Stang

“POP?”

I stared through the autumn’s cornstalks as they crisscrossed my vision of the bulk of a man I had so dearly loved in life. I was on my knees in his garden, though it had been eighteen years since my grandfather bent his back for the glory of his prized tomatoes, I felt injurious to his memory, pithless, unable to hide my shame trying to hide a useless vine broken in the mudof a recent rain.

“Is that really you?”

“Make sure to pinch all the suckers off, Mikey.” Pop said as if he had never left my side, still the gentle teacher. “They’ll steal juice from the stem and yellow the fruit. You know how Ma likes her tomatoes red and sweet.”

When Pop said something, time disappeared. I remembered that voice as the inherited management of my young life. Sighs, the depth of which addled the cruelest edge, confessed to me that there was no need to worry. Pop collected words from the pages of his worlds. He spoke carefully, selecting stories of adventures past and present, promised thrilling hours night after night to come.

Ma said he was the silver tongue devil in disguise. I never pushed her to explain anything more.

“You’re not dead?”

The worn straw hat sat high on his head very much alive. I could see the feather white hair we kids took turns combing while he relaxed in an armchair, home for the weekend from the railroad. Was that a hundred years ago? I don’t know. The man saved the love in his heart for his grandchildren. With his arms around me, we were ageless.

“They hide here under the leaves. Check the squash too, it’s the same”

“Remember when the zucchini ran wild in the driveway that year, Pop and crazy Marysquashed them hidden in the grass with her tires?

“Mikey there is little time; it is you who must remember. I am everything now, all at once—what once was is only for the living.”

Pop, no, I need your help. What about the rhubarb patch so thick I turned an ankle, the carrots, and potatoes you told me to dig for when I told you no way was there anything left in the ground. I need your—you. I’m not right Pop…there’s something wrong. Tell me there is time for us.

“Tell me of my Concord grapes.” Fathomed crystal blue eyes looked at me patiently from a domain of peace.

We both looked over to the dark blue stains that gave shape to the arbor he built between the apple trees. Massive clusters of black grapes, thick as thieves, struck out between rusted leaves.

“They’re your grapes, Pop. I never touch them they just grow like that.”

“And the apples?”

“The sheds are full of them rotting the floors.”

I sank from my knees to my hands. I could smell the old canned tobacco on his breath.

Smoking killed him. Before the cancer ate through his throat, he dripped blood through his nose into an old kitchen pan for a day. Pop died in my arms on the bathroom floor, drowning. Before his life gave out, he kept going for pockets in his pants with his hands. I kept trying to keep him still. Later, the hospital called to let Ma know there was eighty-five dollars on him when they stripped off the clothes.

Pop’s time with me was drawing close. His spirit embarked on heaven’s realm not as a god-struck pilgrim, but as a soul welcomed home. I sensed the open thresholds and saw the light around him thin from this oxygen-bound garden. Still he waited for me, as he always did, to understand the lesson.

“These cultivated rows show only your hands now, Mikey, I have others to tend.”

“Wait, you gave us so much…gave me. I know there were others and the days were short. You sacrificed your retirement, traded it in to extend the family so that I could have something, anything to look back on as a safe environment, a child’s world…a decent start. And I was safe with you. Please. Please, Pop. Show me how to live without you; I swear it’s not too late; help me tell my tales.

Pop expanded in front of me. Up and down the rows, his energy turned the soil red. The earth boiled with the message he came to deliver. In a flash, I watched as the garden spoiled and then vibrated to grow again. The skies followed seasons of death and birth, death and birth, until the worms caressed my soul, and I, reaching out to a sucker with my hand intertwined in my grandfather’s own, set the stage one more time.

***********************************************************************************************************

And here is what it’s all about. The last line of the song, and our prompt.

 

47 comments

  1. Glclark says:

    Wow! This is a whole new you, Mike. I knew someday you’d trust us enough to roll over and expose your soft underbelly and now you’ve done it. This is a story, as Kyle Katz says, just sits on the fence on a warm summer afternoon and watches the people stroll by. It’s not forceful, pretentious, or over-written. It’s simply you doing what you do best and that’s pouring your heart out and shaping it into a beautiful story of redeeming and changing.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thanks Gary. Peg should be smiling that big ole southern river grin, she wrote the last paragraph. And by the way, Peg was the one who originally recognized my soul, yeah her and Stars, bleeding on the tower’s floor. I owe a lot to those two…I owe a lot to you all.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    I am in awe of your tender care, rich emotional pleadings, earthy connection sewn as a planting and harvesting across time within this story telling. Here is a story I dearly love and can treasure, because there is a loving here which is eternal. There is the expression that love conquers all. Your beautifully written story, plot line, cadence is an act of love to the memory of Peggy and all the dear ones we miss so completely, yet at times visit our requesting minds and needful hearts. There is both an interconnectiveness of the good earth, the characters’ souls and to us your readers. Thank you.

  3. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    Mike, I can read your writings from dawn to dusk, then mull over their magic. I love this story. It reminds me of my own wished-for encounters with my father. The language is superb!

  4. Beverly Lucey says:

    Of course the descriptions are wonderful in this piece, from healthy growth to nosebleeds in a pan…but this one line+ really pulled at me: I need your—you. I’m not right Pop…there’s something wrong. “I’m not right” is so full of bewilderment and failure and loss. Amazing what three words can do.

  5. I don’t know how I feel about this piece. It made me sad, and hopeful, and at peace too. It is a great piece of writing, and even though some of the punctuation threw me, you did capture the magic of growth, life, wither and decay in cycle and in random spurts all over as well… this was really cool.

  6. Mike Casper says:

    Touching story, I was there in the garden with you two. I never had a grandpa, My paternal one died before I was born and my maternal one ran away to California when my Mom was little. Thank you for lending me yours, briefly.

  7. Thank you all for kind comments. They mean so much. There are moments being a part of awwYp that I will remember forever. Some refer to them as watershed moments, this is one.
    Thanks, again. What a terrific bunch of writers everybody is.

  8. KYLE Katz says:

    I feel when you write, my heart opens up and covers the ground, touches the heavens then kisses God on the forehead. Each word planted in the earth, bursting through with flavors of life’s love and losses. This story a full seasons harvest, leaving its rich taste far beyond what words could never explain. Thank you!

      • KYLE Katz says:

        I’ve always been impressed, with the rarity of your range of expression. I’ve read everything from your tenderness of soul that will have you kneeling before the alter, lighting candles, learning latin. To hard hitting, punch you in the stomach of revelations that “Toilet paper” can have humanistic characters, with the same undying conviction. Your readers are beckoned to eat your stories even if it’s topped with Hot sauce. I learned from you the heat just makes you better as a writer. Yes…You are up there. Thanks for lifting me up with you, so I have a better view. Keep Writing Mike. Love Kyle

        • This makes me hug the vision of you standing in front of me. Keep with the passionate fight yourself as well. Writing looks to me like our way out. You have grown wings, Kyle. Let’s dance in the sky.

          • KYLE Katz says:

            No longer the tattered angel, I fly in full blossom from those that have always believed in me. Our friendship will continue to dance in the sky! Thanks for the hugs.

  9. Rachel Walker says:

    Beautifully written. My favorite description: “Fathomed crystal blue eyes looked at me patiently from a domain of peace.” I can sense the emotion those words carry and am instantly transported to that place of peace and security our loved ones help cultivate within us, even after they’re gone. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. elizabeth sloan says:

    Good strong dialogue. The reader really gets a feel for this relationship, the genuine fondness and connection. And I really like the use of landscape, the organic metaphor that shows strength, weakness, endurance, love.

  11. Stars Fall On My Heart
    Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    We’re all energy in the end <3 Just less organized. And he can't learn to live without him until he returns to the earth and to the spirit world we came from. Beautiful <3 I miss her <3

  12. Laura G says:

    This is a touching and masterful piece that teaches so much about what matters in life. You are skilled in the surprise sentence, the slow build. I love the image of the oxygen-tent garden, like a greenhouse for Pop. The sudden turn from the garden, the childhood memories, to his death and then back to the garden, with your current emotions as the crop, seems effortless but takes great writing skill. Thank you for the gift of you!

  13. Diane Cresswell says:

    It feels like I was saving the best for last. You’re the best. I love this in my heart and I see Peggy smiling through the tears that are dripping like raindrops onto our garden of stories. You stirred her. She’s nodding her head yes…her words: “You tell Mr. Mike that his words have stirred a lot of hearts here (and I see Homer here too) and that the love he has within crosses easily all dimensions. Thank you.” We are so blessed to have you with us on this journey and me – personnally I’m deeply blessed to have you as a dear friend. Exquisite – just exquisite.

    • I kept going back to Peg, making sure I had this correct. She is an amazing teacher but I embraced your spirit as well, knowing that you have the capacity to proof-read unlike any other I know. It has been a humbling experience for me. Something I owed to Pop for so long, and something I owed to Peg. Thank you for turning the wheel. Forever.

      • Diane Cresswell says:

        Peggy just popped through and said: “You don’t owe her anything – only yourself.” From me – we do what we do because we love.

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