When I got home from the office, Carl was dancing in front of the television. He was wearing my pink high heels, and one of my bras. Thank God we didn’t have any kids. Two months later we were done. That was on Easter Sunday 1988….”

by ed markowski

Commencement Ceremony Tuesday June 16th, 1970 . . .

At the podium, our conservative prince and principle Doctor John Henry Holliday squeezed and shook my left hand as he stammered, “Congratulations, if I was president, I’d send every one of you filthy ponytailed punks on a one way senior trip up and down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.” When Doc’s silly putty lips, teeth, fillings, gums, tongue, nose, eyes, and smile burst, dripped, and bounced off of my red, white, and denim blue suede Fidel Guevara Cuban Heels, I swallowed another one of Bon Bon’s M and M’s. Then, I split into two shiny beads of Mercury, and skittered into the darkness that coddled and caressed our American Beyond . . . .

40th Reunion Class Of 1970 . . . July, 24th, 2010

“A year after we graduated from Wisconsin, we figured we’d give farming a go. Sally’s parents helped us buy a fifty acre farm ten miles West of Newman’s Grove, Nebraska. So there we were, two streetwise city kids with psychology degrees, sitting on a rusty tractor in an infinite flat land. We learned real quick that siphoning gas through a garden hose, stealing hubcaps, and shoplifting strip steaks doesn’t mean diamonds or dog dust when it comes to wrenching a tractor, capping a well, milking a cow, or butchering a blue ribbon steer. Sally tilled the fields on April fifth, 1975. I sowed the seeds on May tenth in an empty corn crib, and on Valentine’s Day 1976 in a howling prairie blizzard, we harvested a seven pound eight ounce blue eyed blue ribbon winner named Anne Marie. Our Annie moved to Leavenworth, Kansas six months after her husband was killed in a hunting accident on Thanksgiving 2003. We city kids didn’t make a dime raising corn, soy beans, carrots, and potatoes, but we did raise four more tried and true blue kids in addition to our Annie. When we realized we couldn’t turn our crops into cash I took a counseling position at the high school. Sally took a counseling position with the Madison County Mental Health Department. When Betsy our youngest was grown and gone, we decided to move back. Sally’s mom and dad needed help, and I wanted to see if my father and I could salvage anything other than anger from our tortured relationship. We came back in May of ’08. I’m going up to the bar. Who needs what I’ll fetch?”

“Everyone dies young. If you live to be ten thousand years old you’re still going to die young.”

“Not much different than the life span of a fly.”

“Ninety-six from the class of seventy gone for good.”

“I spent five years in LA as a waitress at a vegetarian restaurant while I tried to become an actress. I spent ten years as a grape inspector and wine taster at The Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, California. Seven years ago I moved back to Romeo and became Perry Appholz personal fruit fly.”

“I think every woman on Earth is waiting to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and every man is in line waiting to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. At 57, that’s how this old cheerleader sees the world.”

“When I got home from the office, Carl was dancing in front of the television. He was wearing my pink high heels, and one of my bras. Thank God we didn’t have any kids. Two months later we were done. That was on Easter Sunday 1988. I saw Carl once after that. He was wearing a pink skirt, white blouse, black flip flops. When he walked into the Beauty Nook to buy mascara, eye liner, lipstick, and foundation, I gave him a fifty percent discount.”

“Our Marriage? Like Sugar Daddys and Sugar Babies, sticky and sweet.”

“Watched the cable unravel and snap. Five ton of cold rolled steel crushed the foreman. Mike the crane operator and his hook up man Nate laughed, and no one took up a collection for his widow, but Ted the janitor picked some dandelions from the field behind the warehouse, and delivered them to the funeral home with a note that read, ‘Thank you God.’”

“My father emotionally abused all of us. He died when I was seven, but he lived to 94.”

“My old man never spared the rod. His was made out of steel. Once was enough for all of us.”

“You were lucky. My old man drank, drooled, and peed on himself every night.”

“Well Phyllis, my whole ten thousand chapter, twenty thousand page, thirty million word, forty year long story was written in one three inch long line that scarred a vanity mirror, and flew up my nose in two seconds flat in room six at The Royal Rebel Motel in Chattanooga Tennessee, where it began growing longer than the horizon line. I brought ten grams, and here’s one on the house for the girl next door who turned me on to The Doors, black lights, granola, scrambled eggs, caraway rye toast, and to this day, hands down, the best Moroccan Blonde Hash I’ve ever tasted.”

“Denny D was killed by a land mine during Operation Ranch Hand.”

“It’s true. Jenny Collins, the only girl in American history to flunk Home Ec, has eight kids.”

“Doing a hundred in his Camaro. The truck in front stopped. Jack and Paula lost their heads.”

“How would I sum up the eighties? Well, a centennial farmhouse on an inland lake in Michigan’s cherry belt, Absolut on ice on the nightstand every night, more coke than you could fit in a steam shovel. Fame, fortune, and debauchery in a fictional town. Peaches stuffed with almond tinted sweet cream. And, a gorgeous white witch with strawberry blonde hair whose tropically lush lips cast a spell that turned me into the Amazon River.”

“Our marriage? Yeah well, it was an international celebration of bad decisions.”

“Memorial Day 1974 caught on playing lead guitar in a bar band called Sonic Blush. By Halloween everyone in the band was sunk in junk except me. I did a double twist high dive into an ocean of Canadian Mist, left the junkies tied to their tourniquets, found some players, tacked together a band called Chronic Lush, and I never looked back.”

“I believed peace on Earth was just a matter of time. I believe peace will come after we kill ourselves off.”

“I believed the night sky, and every star were equivalent shades of celestial light. I believe I’ve gone blind.”

“I believed love minus lunacy would find all of us. I believe that’s still possible if you find the right dog.”

“Where was I that morning ? I was standing on the North East corner. I was in the middle of an Egg Mcmuffin.
I was sun drenched. I was looking up. I heard an impossibly loud explosion. I heard a city of eight million go suddenly silent. I watched a man in a three piece suit jump out of a window sixty stories above the street. He clutched his briefcase the way I clutched my Bunny Bear and Chatty Cathy when I was five.”

“J S told me he wanted to take me to a ballgame because I hadn’t been to the new stadium. Thursday morning, I drove through the old neighborhood. Everyone I knew was gone. Most of them were dead. The house where my sisters and I were conceived, the house where my sisters and I went from diapers to graduate degrees, the rock solid house our parents died to pay for every day until their deaths was a Wes Craven camera riff on the American Dream. Our three bedroom, bath and a half, two car garage citadel was a crack inspired creep show of charred wood, broken bricks, and shattered glass. Fifteen minutes later I knocked on his door.

J S took a look. J S said, ‘You’ve looked better on the tenth day of a five-day bend. What’s wrong ?’

‘I drove past the old house.’

‘Good memories ?’

he house is rubble. So are the people. You and Stacy are the last two standing. I’d kill him if I could.’

‘Kill him ? Kill who?’

‘The motherfucker who stuffed my mind with decay and death. Father Time.’”

In the home half of the fifth inning I went to get JS a beer. I was standing behind a woman with rich mahogany hair. She was wearing a blue and orange crepe dress. There was something about her that wasv familiar and intimate even though I was an easy thirty-five years closer to hell than she was. When she turned around I knew what I had to do.”

“You left wingers always distort the facts. Ok, so George Junior tipped a few and did some dust. He got sober. The sexy sax man and his girl Hillary are still moving tons of coke through New Orleans. They’re two of the biggest coke smugglers in the world, and that’s a fact my daughters learned at the Christian Academy. They don’t lie in the name of Christ.”

“Our Marriage ? A 1959 Edsel with four flats and no shock absorbers that keeps on running.”

“Marty was a year away from ordination when Father Phillip caught him and a hooker sipping Ripple naked on Good Friday. On Saturday morning Father Phillip opened the door, said, “Go in shame,” and the golden door to Heaven slammed shut in silence. He walked down Chicago Boulevard, took a look at Uncle Sam’s bushy eyebrows and his glowering trigger finger, walked through the door, enlisted in the army, and a nation of abject despondence, in a state of abject despondence on May eleventh, nineteen sixty seven. As a reward for sacrificing at the least two years of his life, and possibly all of it, the politicians in Washington bought him a ringside seat for the entire Tet Offensive.”

“I propose a toast to our generation being the next to be buried.”

“No doubt, The Pepsi Generation’s teeth are rotting.”

“Forever young, I told the kids to dress me in frayed denim from head to toe.”

“I shook the man’s hand and said, ‘Chow mai fun moo goo kung pao goo gai sing kung kam loo shu mai sum la ting ma tung ting har chee bao chow lao ping tzu foo char kow chao fa wing sung chi yang ching kow foo goo ling, and that’s about all I can say about Shanghai.’ The man asked if I could teach him how to speak Chinese. I said ‘Chop chi fool yoo, that means sure, two thousand dollars for the five week course to be paid in full prior to the first lesson.’ The man handed me a check. An hour later I boarded a plane to Montreal.”

“Our marriage ? I still thank God that Eve offered, and Adam ate the apple.”

“My father took me to my first baseball game at Tiger Stadium when I was six. Boston was in town. We sat in the bleachers. That was the first time I experienced love at first sight. Everything thereafter was baseball, baseball, and more baseball. As a thank you, I desperately wanted to take him to a game. Tiger Stadium was the one place where he was always relaxed. I asked him plenty. He said no every time.”

“She found my smile in the war wreckage and mailed it back to my face.”

“What was it like? Well Debbie, six months after graduation day I watched two stars fall through El Paso Abe’s empty blood crusted eye sockets. When I came home I welded my mouth and spirit to a bottomless shot glass and smothered my mind with pills and white powder. But there’s nothing out there that can kill the fact that every light I see, I see blazing through the empty eye sockets of a dead rodeo cowboy from West Texas.”

“Forty years down stream with two rickety knees and I still feel like kicking his ass.”

“After my third divorce love turned into a lap dance.”

“Our first born was conceived in the parking lot at Saint Cyril’s after midnight mass.”

“A five thousand square foot home in Lake Forest. Matching Mercedes, Eldorados, Corvettes, and a Rolls. Weekend trips to Paris and Berlin. An apartment that overlooks Central Park. A two million dollar condo in the Keys. Our three kids at Ivy League schools. And all along, my husband was making love with Chuck the mailman.

“When my husband drew his last breath, an Atlas Moving Van was idling under our bedroom window.”

“Through the whole process of our separation and divorce, there was no separation anxiety. There was an epidemic of celebration. Fifteen minutes after the hearing, Lance said, ‘Deb, let’s get loaded once more for the road.’ We went across the street to the Alibi Lounge. We had our first drink a few ticks past noon. Lance left three weeks later. We always were drinking buddies, we’re still drinking buddies, and I’m sure we’re going to die being drinking buddies.”

“John Lennon, I cried for weeks. I still do.”

“Bob Dylan’s 69. Is that fuckin’ possible?”

“Keith Richards is still alive, that’s a Pope sanctioned miracle.”

“Our star quarterback got twelve to twenty for tackling his star quarterback’s fifteen year old sister. The case was heard, and the sentence was handed down by The Honorable Judge Mark Jacinski or Merlin The Acid Ace of Montrose Avenue, as he was known back then in the parks, at the dances, in the alleys and on the beaches.”

“Our marriage? Finger Lickin’ Good.”

“My father told me when I was twelve that his only son was going to be the college graduate he could never be because of his accident. When I went to college my father resented my being there. Every time I came home he’d go out of his way to belittle me. He’d tell the neighbors, ‘He’s doing fine in school, but the goddamned kid doesn’t know how to change a fuckin’ tire, ask him to set a watch and he’ll break the goddamned crystal. Sent him to the store for a quart of milk, and the son of a bitch came home with a fuckin’ pint of whiskey.”

“What about the day he left ? I cried for three months.”

“Ok, so Madame Rouge the fortune teller pointed to a streamer of sunlight and the dust drops turning and tumbling on the beam. She shrugged her shoulders, smiled and said, ‘That’s what all of us have to look forward to. That’s our past, present, future, and fortune. Will you be paying with cash, check, or a credit card?”

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Nine
July 2014

Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. More of Ed’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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