July 21st, 1969…

It was 9:56 AM as I sat in the living room with my eyes glued to the television, and heard Neal Armstrong proclaim to the universe, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For a twelve year old’s imagination, hopes and dreams, this was not just a step onto the moon, but a step into the heavens. My heart pounded and mind raced at what promised to be the beginning of a new way of life.

My God, we’d just touched the surface of another world. Nothing would ever be the same again. If we could do this, there would be no problems that mankind could not overcome. Over population, famine and war would no longer haunt us. Star Trek had it right all along. We were now free to move among the stars. Surely, it would only be a matter of a few years and there would be a colony on the Moon, then Mars and then beyond our solar system. The expanse of the universe was now our playground. Nothing can hold humanity back.

By the end of the week, baseball, fishing and summer days had pushed the momentous occasion out of my mind. Once the ‘space race’ was over, we realized that we had nothing to win. Without a prize, it didn’t take long for humanity to lose interest as well.

100 Word Wednesday – Sally Jo…

She was a drab forty something in fuzzy pink house slippers and tights that made her ass look like the surface of the moon. A big flesh colored moon showing all the ridges, mountains and craters. Her thin tie-dyed t-shirt was a size too small and revealed the dark nipples hiding beneath it. She lit a joint and coughed the smoke into the space that separated her from the world. A woman stuck in the 1960’s while life moved on without her.

But Phillip will forever tell the story of how, at 17, a beautiful Greek goddess brought him manhood.

Saturday’s Short Story — The Fight…

We follow the highway out to the Belcher creek turnoff and cross the train tracks. A full moon hangs high in the cloudless Missouri sky as we approach the bridge and stop right in the middle of the gravel road. The only people that use the bridge anymore are a few farmers and there’s no way in hell they’re going to be out at 11 O’clock at night.

A line of cars pull in behind us and everyone cuts their engines. But the music from a dozen radios still drifts through the air.  I step out of the car and gaze at the stars. I’m thinking that it would sure be a great night to go hunting instead of pounding somebody’s head into the gravel. Besides, I really don’t dislike Marvin. Hell, we had spent many summer days fishing down at the ‘Pits’ or hunting rabbits together on old man Bailey’s land. Besides, me and Beth were pretty much done with each other anyway. But still, you can’t just go around asking another man’s girl out and not expect some consequences.

Leroy and Jimmie walk up and down the road telling everybody to shut off their radios and headlights. Every now and again I can see them lean into a window and take a drink of whisky or a toke from somebody’s joint. At about five till, everybody starts making their way toward the bridge. It’s starting to look like homecoming on a Friday night with the headlights from Jimmie’s car spotlighting the arena. Some of the guys are cutting up, pretending to be boxing. Most of the girls have pushed their way to the front and are leaning against the cars, making sure they get a good look at the gladiators of the night. The crowd has pushed in close and I’m drawing a lot of confidence from there murmurs. I peel off my shirt and throw it on the hood. I can’t keep from smiling a little as some of the girls start whispering about how big my shoulders are.

I can feel the crowd starting to get a little antsy and I’m beginning to think that Marvin isn’t going to show when a set of headlights turns the corner on the other side of the creek and heads toward us. The red corvette stops just short of the bridge and the door opens. The dash light reveals Marvin, with Beth practically sitting on his lap like some bitch dog in heat. I start walking toward the center of the bridge while Jimmie and Leroy hold back the crowd.

Beth follows along a few steps behind Marvin. She’s wearing a tight black blouse and leather skirt and puffing on a Virginia Slim. It gives me a little pang of longing as she looks at me with those blue eyes.

Marvin takes off his shirt and hands it to Beth and she goes on past us to join the crowd. I chuckled a little at the sight of his pasty white torso. A quick thought comes to my mind that he must have some Albino blood in him or something to be that white. Why haven’t I ever noticed it before? Maybe it’s the way the car headlights bounce off him. He looks a lot smaller than I remember from gym class too and I start to feel a little sorry for him. I must admit the desire to break his nose is beginning to fade.

But he walks right up to me and spits into the dust at my feet and some of the anger comes back. But I still can’t get as worked up as I was with the crowd egging me on earlier.

“So I hear you said city boys like to suck cow tits and have sex with sheep.” He said.

“Well, I say a lot of things but I don’t remember saying that.” Marvin looks puzzled, like I just took away his reason for being here in the first place.

He’s just standing there not knowing for sure what to do next. So I point my finger at his chest and say, “It was bull cocks and sheep dogs…City Boy.”

Marvin’s face is getting red and I can see him double up his fist looking for the right time to throw a punch. But he still isn’t sure if he wants to be the one to start it.

Someone yells from the crowd, “You already took his girl Marvin…now take his teeth.” I swear it’s Leroy’s voice.

“You know city boy, you probably should go on back home and take your tramp with you before you end up getting hurt.” I tell him.

Marvin replies with another spatter of spit, only this time aimed right at my chest. I give him a little shove, surprised at how easy it was to knock him back a step. Marvin steps forward and takes a swing at me. I side step it fairly easily and we walk circles around each other a few times…sizing each other up. Jimmie and some of the other guys are yelling at me to knock his head off. So I take a swing at him, not really wanting to hurt him but just letting him know I mean business.

Marvin is a hell of a lot faster than I realize and ducks it easily then pops me one in my right eye. It hurts like hell and I know the swelling is going to come soon. I really misread him. The next few blows don’t really make much contact but then I see his left drop a little and I plant one on his ear. That makes him step back a little and I can see that it’s blood red. I charge him and land a couple of good hits. One bloodies his nose and another busts his upper lip. I start feeling pretty proud of myself and I give him a couple more jabs thinking he’ll back down. That’s when I see his right hand coming.

It’s headed straight for my jaw. Everything is moving in slow motion. I watch it coming at me, my mind is telling my body to get the hell out of the way but my body is saying…screw you. I feel my head snap back and my legs are having trouble keeping me upright. I can feel the blood running down my face and taste it in my mouth. A few seconds seem eternal before my vision starts to clear. I think he’s in shock that he hit me so hard because he’s not pressing me, so I take advantage of it. I go after him again and I can feel a few of my jabs have some effect. Then my right hand connects to his chin and I have him down on his knees, staring up at me through two swelling eyes. I step back a little and spit blood off the side of the bridge into the water below. I’m thinking how nice it would be to jump in and let the water cover me with its coolness.

Marvin regains his footing and we circle each other again. I throw a few more punches but they have nothing to them. Suddenly, Marvin drops his guard and I prime my arm for the kill shot. But I don’t want to deliver it and I think he knows it so he drops both hands to his sides and he’s just standing there. I’m listening to the jeers coming from the crowd. I see a little quiver run through his entire body and he shakes his head slightly. He lifts his hand toward me. I realize that I want nothing to do with the whole damn thing anymore either so I take it.

I stare at him, as he walks back to his car and gets in on the passenger side. Beth closes the door and runs around to get in on the driver’s side. Her ass swinging in her tight skirt and tits heaving in her blouse. I can tell, she’s about to cry and I can’ help but wonder if anybody really won. Maybe it makes no difference but I think I’m going to miss her.

The Drowning

An excerpt from an upcoming new book by Jerry Brotherton  ‘Small Stories from a Tiny Town’

How in the hell the news got to us so quickly is still a mystery. One minute, we’re in the middle of the street playing our childish games then, what seemed like only a moment later, we’re standing at the water’s edge. Red lights slashing through the early evening dusk.

We watched as Sheriff Rankin and his brother Will maneuvered their boat around the middle of the lake. Casting a snagging line out like it was just another evening of spoonbill fishing.

Everybody from town was standing around in little groups whispering to each other. Speculating on what, then how, it happened. It seemed that seventeen year old Terry Bowman had tried to swim across the lake by himself. He didn’t make it.

All us guys were standing a few yards away from the somber faces of the adults. We were jabbing each other in the ribs and joking with one another like we had just come out of the movie theatre. Even there in the face of death, our youthful immortality poked its head out. We knew one thing for certain, whatever hand fate had dealt to Terry, it had nothing to do with us.

But the moment they lifted Terry’s body from the boat and laid him gently onto the shore, his blue lips highlighted against his pasty whiteness, his eyes wide open and staring toward the night sky. His mother kneeling over his wrinkled body and crying for God to give him back. That’s when I knew death for the first time in my life. And my youthful naiveté abandoned me.

As I stared into his face, I strange curiosity overtook me. I wondered what thoughts went through Terry’s mind the moment he realized that he was never going to make it to the other side of the lake. As he looked back and saw his friends, highlighted against the setting sun, dancing, singing and making out; when did panic set in?

Was it when his arms turned to rubber and he struggled to just stay afloat that he started looking for some miracle to get him out? Or later when his first gasp for air brought him nothing but a mouth full of water? At what point did he stop fighting and just accept that death was going to take him. Or did he struggle to the very end, never giving up hope?

So as I stood there in silence, watching his mother cradle her son. Her tears dripping into his unblinking eyes and her sobs choking out any words she tried to give to him, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground. I watched her gently rock her baby in her arms and I suddenly hated God for taking him away from her.

That evening, those flashing red lights slicing into the stillness and the sobbing moans of Terry’s mom burned a memory deep into my innocents that I was sure I would never forget.

But the next morning found us all gathered at the ball park laughing and joking like any other summer day. Like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Except choosing up side was just a little harder now that Terry was gone… but hey, the game must go on.