By Lin Stone

 
And Jimmy, I'm just talking so you will know I'm still here, because I love you, and your father is laboring double hard in the field so I can be here for you when you need me.  We'll pay for it this fall in the harvest, but we're praying that the Good Lord in his mercy will give us more abundantly a wise use of our labors and good weather for our crops.  It must be human in times of trouble to forget what the most important things in life are and seek to waste our labors in a desire to have it all.  Those unwiser yet will struggle and writhe to preserve the frivolous and obscene that has drained away their strength.  After a while their vain pursuits become commonplace, and they forget what is really important.  It's kinda like the way of hummingbirds forget how important people are in keeping their feeders fed -- and they don't want people coming near to replenish their dwindling supply.  You've seen that happen, haven't you?

When we moved into the city where tall caves stand with eternal splendors that gleam from morn to night, you so soon began to forget there was a moon, and you forgot how important and beautiful the sun is.

You listened to the wrong kind of people and soon you were doing the wrong kind of things.  You were led to synthetic heavens and forgot how beautiful the real earth is, so you sort of lost your way.  Doctors said you'd never be right again.  So we moved home to your Grandpa's ranch.

Many miles out here in the open country where we get up early to milk the cows and hay down the horses, the rising sun still strikes the beginning gong in the long, eternal round of life.

As it was in the days of Abraham, do you remember me reading about Abraham to you Jimmy?  As it was back in the days of Abraham, so grows it to be today.  The earth is tamped down solid with rustling stems of grass because the wind still blows all good things our way.

Lay your head back Jimmy.  You need to rest.  You mustn't fret nor twitch and twitter so, for it steals all your strength away.  Look out the window there and tell me what you see, out there today.

There's nothing much out there Mama.  All I see is the pasture, so brown it's almost bare. And beyond it I see the field of rotting hay, no life left in it there.

Jimmy, that's progress.  Doctors said you might not ever see again.  All you see is the hay out there, Jimmy.  But I see the Golden breath of Life. The kiss of God's love upon the earth.

Oh, I know the farmer down the lane told you that he sees a dollar sign growing in his fields, and it's just withering away.

And your silly teacher said that scientists believe an accident that just happened because of an accident before it is what made the earth look this way.  But you listen to me, Jimmy boy and I'll tell you what I see.  Out there in this morning's dawn gleams the kiss of God, brushing his golden love upon the earth.

It was made for our sake and he meant for us its beauty to search out and see.  Light is power, beauty soft; together it is life they be.  Don't wait to be any older, Jimmy.  Open your eyes so now you'll see.

Oh Mama dear, some oatmeal broth, first today, if you please.  My breath is tight again and I can't hold my head up just now in order to see.

Don't you worry dear.  Papa's in the kitchen and I hear him stoking more wood into the range.  It will soon be blazing fair beneath the plate -- with some water boiling hot, fresh from the stream. 

How goes the boy, Emma? Can he do his chores this day?

Ah, no. Not this day, Joseph. And he lays so low that I feel it's needful that I stay, stay too with him today.

I'll call up Hyrum then to help me gather in the hay.  I think there's a storm coming for the air has a crackle to it and the flies are hard up to haze them away.  What is it that I can do here to help you out along the way?

Maybe a hotter blanket, do you think, Joseph?  Can you lay your hands upon his head, to bless him again with strength enough to fight? He says his bones are cold.  I will throw on the pot for oatmeal for him.  For you I think we need some rich fried biscuits, a thick piece of steaming ham.  I'll give you just one egg, with seedless blackberry jam -- but you come back for more at ten.  You hear? I want you strong to stand the sun while wrestling out the hay.

I blessed him Mom, like you said.  But his frame's so hot I pulled the blanket up only half way on his bed.  Oh, that ham looks so good the way you fry it up just for me. Do ya think I could have a cupful of oatmeal broth to hold me up along the way?

Oh Joseph, you hold me now and kiss me full of good cheer.  A man like you is worth a thousand cups of oatmeal broth, plus a ton of hay.  The night has been extra long.  Please hold me close, for just a second or so while I gather my strength back up to face the light of day.

I see Grandpa Mama.  He's standing by his wheelbarrow that's so old and broken down you made it into a flower bed.

You can't see Grandpa, Jimmy.  You know he's old and now he's passed away.  It must be someone else maybe Uncle Hyrum that you see.  Here, I'll fluff you up and brighten you with cheer.  I stole it from your Papa so you know it's special bright and sparkling clear.

Teacher says that men so quiet like him are violent inside, frothing dark and mean.

Your teacher's a fool, Jimmy.  I've told you that; don't you listen to her.  I don't know how she ever got that job with the kind of dark thoughts in her heart, and us good folks of the community are working close to send her out of here.

Oh, not my teacher, Mum.  You don't see her dimples and gleam of eye when she tells us truths like that.  You mustn't send her away.

It isn't truths she's telling you, and I don't care how pretty she is when she's telling you lies like that.  Your Papa loves you much for all his quiets and there's a thousand things he wants to say.  He's Cherokee, son and he longs for the woods of home in Green Country.

Give him allowance, give him time.  You run away from him so quick.  Walk beside him, tell him you love him and your Papa's tongue will be loosed with golden words both wise and true.

Like Grandpa, you mean?  I love Grandpa.

Your Grandpa is a nice man, son.  He was wise in his years and loved you straight and true.  But your father's a better man and he bides a stronger love for you.

He loves me more than Grandpa?

It's a different kind of love, Jimmy.  You are his son and he's anxious for you to learn all you'll need to know.  Time is so precious and there's decisions for you to make, every inch you grow. But Jimmy my boy, have you ever taken the time to walk with him and ask him what he sees along the way?

Oh that's a laugh, Mama.  There's nothing here to see.  Teacher says there's finer things.  Beyond this flat land there's a mountain to see and beyond it are cities with mighty malls and water falls, skating rinks and amusement parks; that's where I want to be.

Maybe when you're older, when your mind is strong again like you Dad's -- and like your Grandpa's used to be.

Teacher says it's a shame Daddy won't sell our farm and move his family into town where we could have everything handed us because we're poor..

Jimmy, you listen to me.  There's barkers out there in the world.  You've seen it happen.  One dog barks, miles away, and first thing you know, every dog in the country picks it up and barks up a storm, the same story they picked up, but twisted just a turn; the first dog barked at the wafted scent of a passing coon, and by the time Jep gets it here the story he tells on is there was a herd of elephants there that smashed the house down and trampled down the corn.

Your teacher's a barker lad; you don't hear the other teachers saying silly stuff like that, do you?  Have you heard a one of them say the way to keep a rattle snake from biting is to push your thumb down on its nose?  Have you heard any other teacher tell kids that the only way to tell if a mushroom is deadly is to eat it and see if you die? 

She isn't even barking about things she was taught in the teacher's school; that's how she gets away with this madness, saying she's just making topical comments to make the lessons fly and she meant for them to be funny -- but nobody's laughing out here.  She needs to go back to Chicago; there must be more fools back there.

This is making me so tired, Mama.  I'll just close my eyes if you won't let go of my hand.  Taday I'm seeing the shadows and I need to know you're there.

I'll hold your hand, Jimmy.  Taday and lasterday too.  Oh my little Jimmy, we love you so.

Ah, it feels better with my eyes closed. It feels like I'm floating on the bed.  It's like flying.  Oncet upon a time I saw the spotted eagle lift and wished so hard to follow his wake into the sky.  I closed my eyes and prayed real hard.. Let me see O God, what the eagle must see when he takes his wings into the sky.

What a sweet prayer, Jimmy.  But do you really want to know what the eagle sees when he takes his wings into the sky?

Uhh, yes, Mama.

The eagle is looking at the ground, hoping for food to appear.

The eagle knows he's so high up there is nothing to eat in the sky above him, so he is searching for food between him and the ground.  There's no fish floating up there.  You won't find a chicken cackling by or even a low-down crow.  That's why the hungry eagle is peering at the ground.  And if you are looking at things upon the ground you will probably see more than the eagle sees, especially if you stand still long enough and just turn your head. 

With the eyes of man you can find yourself gazing at the clouds, and miss the trees.  I am now old but I do know that the best part of life is standing right in front of me.

Is that why Papa puts the chickens out on the hill in the steaming sun when one of them dies?

It's no shame to eat from the farmer's hand when it's the bounty he wants to share. The earth has given us much and the eagle has less left to him every day.  Did you know your grandfather's name was Gift From The Eagle's Wing?  Perhaps your father thinks of him when he has bounty to share.

 Mmm.  Oh, I am so tired, Mama. I can't fly any more.  I'm so tired it seems like I'm going to melt right through the bed and I'm wrestling hard to keep from falling through.  There are sparkles behind my eyes and searing pain inside my brain.

You rest then.  It is time for me to go fix a midi meal for your Dad.  Shall I fry you a hot biscuit too, Jimmy?  Or is that too heavy for you right now?

Maybe just a little bit of thin-thin soup, Mama.  I'm too tired to chew.

Rest a bit beside me here.  We can hear him if he cries.  There is a time of twilight, Emma.  The shadows look like winter; They reach out longer than it's possible and they fade together until they cover the mountains and maybe even touch the sea.

What are you trying to tell me Joseph.  I can hear the words but I'm too tired to read between the lines.

If we don't get a good, drenching rain soon it will be an early, long, hard winter.  The leaves are falling already.  I'll start cutting wood tomorrow.

Oh Joseph. You work on trees too tall.  I worry about you so much when you are working alone on the trees, and I've got too much else to worry about right now.  Can't it wait until lasterday?

All day I've waited for the right time to tell you I love you, Emma.  The time is so right I'm most ready to explode.  I love you, dear one.  Dearest of my heart.  I love you.

You don't suspect I'm just being lazy?  Don't laugh at that Joseph; I suspect I'm being lazy and it twists inside me sore.  Surely there's nothing real wrong with the boy, is there?

In the blessing, no words come, Emma.  When I leave his room I fall to my knees and wrestle with my heart.. Am I giving him a blessing from God, or am I begging God for him to live? Every day it feels more like the latter.

I asked you for solace, Joseph -- not this.  I need a big shoulder to cry on.  Please, go, try again. Beg God for the better words to come.  You have power to make the mountains move, don't lose your faith now when my heart depends on you.  I'm not ready to have you stand beside me in my grief.

I see Grandpa and he wants to take me by the hand. It looks like heaven hung out behind him and angels are leaning down, angels are lingering near.

Oh, child of love, come you back, back to me.  Do you not hear?  It's not time for you to go yet. Grandpa's just a wisp of will. There are lessons for you yet to learn and good habits to form and hold.

Grandpa, Grandpa, you came back for me.

Look homeward son, before you fly.  It's not too late, you can still return.  Just hover a moment longer now between this simple earth and your open sky.

Before you go chasing after Grandpa let Papa carry you out to see the sunset.  You listened to the soapy spiel of druggie bubbles that burst to shimmering naught, stop and look at the real beauty here that we have got.

Sleep, sleep my child.  Let my rambling thoughts become soothing sounds of rest and sweet dreams for thee.   As the days slide so gracefully in over the horizon, my laddie boy goes hungering for a wispy paradise.

He's like a little blue butterfly flitting from rich sprung flower beds, off to hills of tarnished gold with naught but a few single flowers nodding in the scouring wind.  Then he dances on to glimmerings that someone sold him, said they were fine and free. 

After he finds the mountain tops he gazes back on the real beauty he's left behind, right here at home.  Here are my clean hills, clean air, a clean heart and a clean home.  Son, don't go gobbling the spoiled slop prettied up with whoop-de-deux, not when our garden makes peas and taters too, with pure clean melons both sweet and fine.  All the world you see out there's a drug addict's dream

We came here, running from their vicious goo; they sell you freedom, they say, but watch how they pay. Without the drugs that seize them they can't make it through the day. If a man is careless he might listen to first one barker after another that promises him the moon or six pence, and send you chasing a phantom rainbow that nobody ever saw, and so end up on a slag heap, one wrong choice after another wrong choice, dragged, drugged and bound into a vast, barren land of emptiness and burning sand.

How strange it is Mama, I can pull myself back off the bed and see me.  How strange he is, this fellow on the mattress that my heart knows full well is all that's left of me.

Listen hard dear child, you canst still hear me weep so hope's still firm.  We cling to a world of gleaming sun where the touch of a man's hand is work undone.  You have a choice to make; you must not go.  Leave your Grandpa and cling you tight unto me.

I have this gift now Mama.  I can step backward and another world I see.  When my soul's living in eternal realms my heart can come racing back to thee.

Not so, my son, you unknowingly lie.  You can't come back until it's time to lift me too into the sky.  For as long as I can hear you I'll hold your hand and keep you by.

I can hear Grandpa.  He is reaching out for me.

Woman, please.  You must let him go.  His pulse is gone, his hand in yours is waxen cold.

No, I hear him still.

Yes, Emma.  Like Joseph says, you must let him go.  He's skipping ahead to the land of other voices.  Turn loose his hand and let him fly.  You can't bring him back -- and best not try.

Leave me be, the two of you and Hyrum too.  I'll hold on his hand for just as long as I can hear him speak. Perhaps he can still hear me too.

Grandpa smiles ahead into lasterday where the future stands so bright and true.  But touch him son and know by his glow.  The body he has is will-o-wisp and not the kind that serves me and you.  Stand back, you said you could.  Stand back and see the hunger you'll have for the body you leave behind. You have butchered it and tortured it and only living in it can make it clean.  Cling to your body Jimmy, my son so dear.  Make your fingers cling to my hand for as long as you can hear.

There, did you see him twitch?  He's coming back home to us, Joseph.  My wrestle of weighty words has won this battle.  Our son is coming home.

No, my love.  I see it not, nor does Mary here.  Our lad is gone, and now my love, it is for your weary health that we fear.

Leave me be, the two of you and Hyrum too.  My son is coming home and he'll be asking for hot oatmeal broth.  Just wait, you'll see.

Mama, I need you.  I can't touch Grandpa's hand.   It's just like you said.  He told me it's not so bad though  -- and I can come back home to you  -- just as soon as I follow his wake into the sky.

the end

the author:  Lin Stone has lived in three worlds, and maybe four.  He has the gift of stepping back and seeing himself the way he is when he's standing at the door.

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Have you ever noticed that most of man's dreams are based on false assumptions. We dream of loping free with the wolves, but really don't like fleas. We dream of the security that lambs must feel, but don't want to be sheared. We dream of being lions, but gag at eating raw meat. We dream of being loved, but can't see the way or take the time to make ourselves lovable.

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That first day of school  

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Old Rattler, and the King Snake. 

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