Mike Stang: Entry number nine: Waiting for Mr. Ed

be it ever so humble

Mike’s bandana was definitely not Hemingway’s flag of permanent defeat

“The sail was patched with flour sacks and, when furled, looked like the flag of permanent defeat.”  Santiago

 

Literati

For those of you new to our site, you are about to read one of my favorite writers, and this piece will show you why.  I think I’ll leave it at that.

 

Waiting for Mr. Ed

by Mike Stang

 

Trust me, I needed saving.

The time-portal-possibility I could’ve used to save myself, I slammed the door on. My past.

Forty-eight years later, I stood on the back porch of my grandfather’s beach shack in a rage. My hands turned to fists and I beat the old screen door till it groaned away from a bottom hinge and swung like a crazy, hanging person. The place was deserted—one more along a shoreline developers knew was too far from the city to draw the millionaire’s club; best just leave it to the periwinkles. I moved to a window and banged some more.

******

There were four of us: my grandparents, Honey the dog, and me. We each pulled the other closer to the hearth in the winters when the bay froze and the pipes split. At night, Philco-neon characters stayed on till the storms cut the power. I kept one eye on the fence out front, if the snow buried it there’d be no school the next day. Times were raw, there was no money, but there was family.

I never thought, when I turned my back on those two sweet people, I would want again so desperately, what I so carelessly threw away. It was cheap glitter I was after: it dragged me by the nose. I bragged about my creative personality; dreams full of imagination; the girls all wanting to talk to me. When I left Ma and Pa, I left my morals on their table.

“Mikey, wait,” Pa said. I glared at him impatient; stupid. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some money. From another, this man who whispered me to sleep at night and lightly scratched my hands in the morning, drew a folded white handkerchief and gave it to me on top of the cash. My rebellion crumbled. I would’ve moved mountains to beg forgiveness and asked to stay, but it was time to go.

At first, I used his gift as a… as a handkerchief. I blew my nose in it but decided that wasn’t right. I wrapped it around a small baggie of mushrooms. When I got to the desert, I ate the mushrooms then used it as a bandana instead. I washed, cooked and cleaned with it. Used it as a tourniquet; everything.

Eventually, the holy rag, as my mind called it, claimed honor. It was no longer white, I no longer washed it. Stitched edging feathered like a war flag. I tied it around my neck and stuck out my thumb; a bit of right against a highway of wrong.

******

Almost half a century later, the beach shack is overgrown in pines: a saddle-backed roof schemes with piano-fingered rot to bring it down.

They are hereabout. I tell that to a patrol cop about to arrest me for trespassing.

“Listen,” I said. “I grew up in this shed, and those ghosts in there are my ghosts, and nothing will stop me from going inside. My business is with them.”

******

Instinctively I used the handkerchief from my neck to wipe my forehead. Overwhelming memories carried me back to a night watching the snow. I didn’t see the fence. “Mikey?” My grandfather asked. “We’ll shovel the paths clear tomorrow, all right with you?”

You bet it was.

***

You can surrender to the temptation to tell your own story about an article of clothing with special significance to you here: https://awordwithyoupress.com/2018/11/24/our-new-contest-high-heeled-sneakers/

 

21 comments

  1. Avatar
    Laura G says:

    Gorgeously told! You took this assignment about clothing (which could have focused only on the material world) and crafted a moving tale of family, love, regret and redemption. Great imagery too. Bravo!

  2. Avatar
    F.J Dagg says:

    Outstanding. Makes me think of Zen art–sparse, but rich. Only a few brush strokes, but placed just right to create an entire world. Thank you, Mike

  3. Avatar
    Jon Tobias says:

    The handkerchief seems to be the swiss army knife of the clothing world. I really like that this story makes the item of clothing a character all it’s own. It is a silent, yet dependable travelling companion, capable of offering comfort as well as holding on to memories. Great write.

  4. Avatar

    A rich piece of writing, conveying so much about life, and family, and the treasures we leave behind along the way. As a reader, I’m enthralled. As a writer, I’m inspired.

  5. Avatar
    Brian Howard says:

    Stand, great soul on keyboard.
    I am right now remembering my grandfathers stuff.

    Old man treasures
    Tucked into every sons soul.

    Shalom from Jerusalem
    Brian

    • Avatar
      Mike Stang says:

      Brian, that’s where they grow into storytelling for the grandchildren. Thank you for your comment. I think of you often.
      Peace.

  6. Avatar
    grant laurence says:

    Took me back to my father’s handkerchiefs, with their blue ‘D’ initial in the corner – What a fantastic writer you are, Mike!

  7. Avatar
    Miryam says:

    Okay… I must have been asleep at the wheel of your talented self Mr. Stang!! I just realized you have authored Monster Weeds!!! And your wife, Betty Wick, is the illustrator (with such talent, there is no words!)…. not to mention your son, Orion, is a passionate vintner!! My oh my…. the talent runs deep in the Stang household!!! I am applauding you all, as I sit in the corner for not congratulating you sooner!
    I discovered this by clicking onto your commentators and since I saw that they are public professionals, I thought it was okay to expose my findings!!! (sometimes it pays off to be a nosey jewish grandmother!)

    • Avatar
      Diane Cresswell says:

      Oh and Miryam – I have tasted Orion’s wines and believe me – they are incredible. Incredibleness runs in the family. My pleasure and honor to know them all.

  8. Avatar
    Mike Stang says:

    Thank you, Miryam. Yes, I am blessed with creatives at the table and חאָלע ױנעס such as yourselves.
    God bless.

  9. Avatar

    There are diamonds aplenty in this piece. But I *think* my favorite is ” a bit of right against a highway of wrong.” Perhaps because it is so multi-layered and symbolic in your story. Paths. Choices. Feelings. So glad to be amongst such an amazing cadre of writing talent. You guys inspire me every time I get a chance to read your stuff. Thank you for writing.

  10. Avatar
    Diane Cresswell says:

    Well Stang again you have me taking in gulps of breath attempting not to shed tears. I love these stories about your grandfather. You make him alive again or rather still when you write these vignettes. I can hear him now and what he whispers to you. Love love love.

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