For Gary, Mike Stang is here again




The old Vet stumbled away from the wall. Slim fingered the last cigarette out from his pockets and lit the end with shaky hands. Time had stopped. His forehead looked like the wounds of Christ pressed against the names he had found etched into the memorial, for the last hour or two. Forty-five years was nothing, they were all there: Jackson, Mich, Over, Pussy, and John, the NFG, who lasted exactly eighteen minutes in the field. Ghosts behind stone.

Miam arrived just in time to watch her Father fall among the tourists. She bolted from the rental and shoved her way past the inner circle. Heart attack, look how he shakes call 911. She heard it all and slapped hard the face of the man she’d trusted more than anybody. Sirens blared; she pulled Slim from the ground, over her shoulder and back to the car.

“Charley, I need a chopper back to Sunspot, dad just collapsed. I should be at Dulles in twenty.”

“Rodger that, six, but be advised you are not on any schedule.”

“He’s dying, Charley, and you’re fucking killing me! Get us to Cloudcroft!”

“All right, shit, you do this every time, Miam. This time you owe me.”

“When was …,” Miam smirked behind the wheel. “Crab cakes at Co Co’s?”

“Take care of Slim.”


Eighteen-inch beams stood the cabin on top of Riley’s Ridge. Slim looked out across the great divide behind windows so tall they scared straight, on the table beside the bed, a fresh pack of Kools sat unopened next to an opened bottle of Jack.

“Better?” Miam came up behind him and touched his shoulder.

“Where am I,” Slim joked as he squeezed her fingers with one hand and rubbed his jaw with the other.

“Don’t ever do that again, you old hoot. Bolling wants my ass for schedule shut down and fuel charges.”

“I needed to talk with my men, okay? Been a while you know. Place looked the same except those damn tourists, what do you want me to say.”

“I love you and everything will be all right.”










21 thoughts on “For Gary, Mike Stang is here again

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    You will never leave our hearts until we see you again Gary Clark.

    “For Gary” is beautifully clear in vivid descriptives and tastefully raw emotions of linking past to present life Michael. Your words echo caring-speak of the loyalty of comrades in arms, sensitivity with compassion, cowboy ethics and character that Gary exemplified throughout his life making us better people as a result.

    Whether one met Gary in real life (I never did), he lassoed our souls by allowing us into his with his stories and letters to us. Time is our greatest gift to each other and Gary found ways to have time for each of us. His spirit is legacy and published stories remain a field of Texan bluebonnets blooming and wild horses being free eternally.

    Thank you Michael for such a tribute which I know brought tears to both Peggy’s and Gary’s eyes when they read them from Heaven. Love is a circle that cannot be broken and you have shown us once again that our community is a circle of love for and with each other.

    • Michael Stang says:

      Bluebonnets. Damn girl you get it.
      Thank you for your insights and compliments, so good to feel your wise feathers brush my shoulders.

  2. Mike Casper says:

    “Ghosts behind stone.”
    I’ve been to The Wall and yes, I can feel them. They’re there.
    Watching. Waiting.
    In a few decades they’ll all be home, and while it won’t be a party, the roll call will be complete.
    Peace at last. Peace in their times. Never forgotten. Forever honored.

    In a few decades we’ll all be behind the AWWYP monitor. Even if it’s gone.
    Watching. Waiting.
    Gary’s there now. I can taste hot and dusty West Texas from his very last story.
    Peg’s there now too. I can feel her love from here.
    Can there ever be a more fitting tribute than to be well remembered?
    I think not.
    Thanks, Mike. Great story.

    • Michael Stang says:

      I can’t believe it yet. Peg was an angel when I submitted my first story to awwyp; we never looked back. Clark shook the timbers of Ocean Side with a seven-point-three, and none of us have ever been the same, yes? We understand the site is about the future, we know in our hearts it is not against the past. Mike, here we go again. Fly high!

    • Tiffany V says:

      Yes. And yes. What I knew of Gary were awesome words, and hilarious comebacks. Also a veteran’s heart, with all that implies. I don’t miss him in the pragmatic sense. I didn’t know him well enough. But in the way that one artist reaches out to another, and, seeing parallel lines, runs freely together in cyberspace. I miss my friend that way, dearly. Dear Peg as well, touched my heart and life journey in her loving way. Good people. Good words about them.

  3. Kenneth Weene says:

    Ghost writers in the sky. Yep, a moving tribute to the man and to the valiant everywhere. I love the echoing description “windows so tall they scared straight” of the great stone segments of the memorial—lovely touch.

  4. Diane Cresswell says:

    What can I say my dear – you did it beautifully. And the ‘ghost’ agrees. Where’s the tissue when I need one.

  5. Jon Tobias says:

    This is a beautiful tribute. I remember all the wonderful comments he left and the stories he submitted on the old site.

  6. kyle katz says:

    Hey Ya Stang! Your writing can make a dead skunk smell like sweet perfume! I have no idea where that came from. I hope Clark isn’t coming through trying to get overaged granny through the door…again!
    You are one freakin amazing writer! “Quiet Clark…I’m talkin.”
    Love this!

  7. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    Gary and Peggy … how can we ever forget them and their writing excellence! Mike, you did a great job with this piece. I am so grateful Thorn rustled us all up AGAIN to share our flashes, renew our friendships, keep the memories alive of those we couldn’t stop loving if we tried.

  8. Thornton Sully says:

    I, too, am grateful to see the crew assembled once again…Isn’t it amazing to live in this age, where through cyberspace relationships become just as tangible and meaningful as if in the flesh?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.