Poggi Ingway, was walking downtown, St. Paul, along the riverfront, it was Christmas Eve, there was still a little light out, it was a cold, cold night. His dog was with him, and he looked at all the artificial Christmas dressing ornaments throughout the city.
Where he could go, what could he do, what was left in life for him: his dog, his apartment, his job, his only friend, true friend, Shannon? He looked down at the icy cold river, said to his dog, “Mutt, where should we go?”
Well, the dog didn’t know anymore than Poggi knew. And clearly, walking had tired him out some. He looked about, knew many of these people were out of work, yet buying this and that. Going on and on and on and on with life, as usual. He knew about this part of life, it went on, and on and on, nowhere is where it ended up. Every place he looked was the old same damn place he had been a thousand times before, he was either leaving or returning, to these same old places, places he just left. That was life.
“Mutt,” he said “this is what my friend Shannon fought the war for, yes indeed for folks like me, and dogs like you, so we could walk one day down this riverfront, and look at the cold, cold river.” The arc lights then went on, he looked at them, thinking and wondering, and contemplating.
He looked and looked and didn’t know what to say, perhaps because there was nothing to say.
“Speak dog speak,” he said, “What would you have me do?”
Poggi was tired, the holidays made him sad, and more tired, so tired, yet he picked up Mutt, held him in his arms tightly, looking over the railing down onto the river.
There was a lot of trouble going on in the country, the blacks were protesting; a war in Vietnam was building up, and draftees were burning their draft cards; hippies all over the place smoking pot; where was it all leading to? A rhetorical question perhaps, but was it all worthwhile?
He wished he wrote poetry, like that fellow poet who lived in Minnesota, Robert Bly, maybe then he’d not be so sad. A happy poem, one on nature, might cheer him up. He knew Bly liked the cornfields just like Shannon, although Shannon used them for his hideaway. San Francisco, ah yes, good old Frisco, there was still San Francisco, that would be nice to go visit again. Why not? Poggi kept striding on along the railing of the bridge, dog in hand, his mind racing. Then he turned about and walked up to the eatery.
Author’s Note to Reader
It was at this point, or a little earlier, reader, that Rosa, my wife asked me for the 4th time, “Are you finished with that story yet?” Wanting to read it, since I’ve been on it from morning to night like white on rice; yesterday we had company, someone who came over and wanted to meet me, I just had a conference on a book I did on Juan Parra del Riego (a poet, who has been dead now some 80-years), and so I gave her an autograph picture, and she was delighted. But the point I want to make is this: that when one is writing a book or short story, or even a poem, these things happen, although they do not show up in the story. Disruptions can cause the writer to drop everything, and attend to other businesses, then come back. So if this part is not as interesting as the rest that is perhaps why. But it is the risk one has to take, breaking for a moment. Mark Twain had his little hut to run to when writing, a little ways away from his house, and Hemingway, in Cuba, a little apartment, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom is from my home town, of St. Paul, hid himself in his room, up around Summit Street. Me, I’m to the contrary, I’m almost in the middle of the house, no place to hide, no place to run to.
P.S. -To the Reader (last chapters)
As we go into these last chapters, and if it doesn’t seem to be so bad, and it fits with the rest of the book, and if you got a laugh or two out of it, well then, your money was well spent, if indeed you purchased it. Go tell your friends to buy a book or two; I got to eat just like you and them.
Inside the diner, it was near midnight, January, 31, New Years Eve, and the New Year was but an hour away. Poggi sat up on a bench by the counter, talking to Old Josh, the black cook, silently and quickly through the door came Maribel, Shannon was with Annabelle, sitting in a booth at the far end of the diner. The young guitar player, that usually sat at the opposite end of the counter, saw Maribel before she got through the doors, and yelled, “Don’t look, she’s naked!”
A customer yelled, “Get her out of here!” She was forcibly ejected, then everyone heard her trashing through the trash cans along side of the diner, pushing them over, she was drunk, and Shannon was sober with Annabelle. Poggi looked at Shannon, and then outside at his wife, and at his dog, quietly by his side, the other ten customers were faint and shaken somewhat. The guitar boy started playing his Rick Nelson tunes.
“Good god,” said Josh directing his statement to Shannon, “Can’t you afford to cloths her?” And everyone started laughing. There was a note of terror in his eyes: as if a battle was about to start a war, he blanked it out.
Poggi was no longer listening to Josh and the police had taken Maribel away in a squad car. Something happened to Poggi just then, he said to Josh, “I was going to kill myself a week ago, something snapped inside of me, I felt lost, like Maribel I suppose, like Shannon who needs Annabelle now, like Annabelle who needs to capture another woman’s man, are we all on a road to self-destruction?”
“I don’t know, Poggi, I jes’ goin’ on a cookin’ likes I always does,” said Josh. And he walked behind the counter to make a hamburger, he was used to the simple life, simple ways, all this was too complex for him, or perhaps too silly.
Poggi got thinking about his time in San Francisco, when he met a redheaded girl, she was a movie star he had convinced himself, he never really knew for sure, so she looked anyhow, and he fell madly in love with her, they went up onto a hill, laid together, and he fell to sleep and when he woke up she had disappeared, and he got Poison Oak from laying in the grass and weeds, and it lasted for two weeks, he had it on his face, his lips, everywhere, folks thought he had syphilis, he had to hide in a hotel room. He could never find that girl again, and somehow he could never replace her. Today, he saw a woman in the raw, a glimpse of her anyhow, somehow he felt he had lost a lot of beauty in-between then and now. Things were going to change.
Poggi looked about, everyone was talking, talking, talking, or listening, and the boy in the corner was playing his Ricky Nelson songs “Traveling Man,” quietly, and the cook was making a hamburger, and he knew now, Maribel couldn’t hang onto Shannon, and in the long run, Shannon would not be able to hang onto Annabelle, but isn’t that the way it always is, one loves more than the other, and who knows what follows.
Suddenly, he turned around on his stool, and before midnight, walked out of the diner, up the street with Mutt, and figured it would be a nice long wet leisurely walk, and by the time he’d get home, he’d be hungry, and Mutt would be hungry, and the house would be cold, and when he turned on the space heater, it would warm his bones, and that would be better than all the yelling and jumping up and down at the diner, to celebrate the new year, on planet earth.
A few more people left the diner, Shannon and Annabelle, remained seated, talking, drinking; he knew it was over for him and Maribel, there was only five of them now, plus the cook. Those six looked at one another, talked amongst each other, drank from hidden bottles of vodka, and rum, and whisky, hidden behind closed jackets, and coats.
Maribel was actually dropped off at her house, the police felt sorry for her, and she made no pretense, thinking she could hold onto Shannon any longer. She steadied her shaking body, turned up the heat, and put some cloths on.
She wrote on a letter, “Shannon Dear,” her hand shivering, “I will be at the St. Paul Hotel, if you want me to come home, call me please, if not, I’m going to San Francisco.”
Shannon looked out the back of the window of the café.
“Won’t you come home with me, Shannon?” said Annabelle.
“Yes,” he said, “I don’t really give a damn, but I will, why not!”
Annabelle dropped her head, “Oh Shannon,” she said, knowing she had her answer, she had won him, won him over his wife. It was over for Maribel, she was crying in her hotel room.
Annabelle sat up, she had a request, she was going to ask for something, only one thing, he might refuse her, but she was now willing to take that chance.
“Shannon,” she said in a soft and soothing voice.
“What is it?” Shannon asked, he saw intent on her face and that disturbed him.
“Will you get rid of that rat and can we go to Paris, or San Francisco, or maybe South America, you have that $8000-dollars yet, don’t you?”
“Sure I got it,” said Shannon.
“Thank you,” she said politely to Shannon.
The rat must have sensed something, and jumped out of Shannon’s pocket, and ran off, down into the cellar of the diner and disappeared. It seemed to him, he had just lost a great friend.
“Are you sorry the rat took off?” asked Annabelle.
“It doesn’t matter.” He said.
“Well, what the heck, let’s go to my place,” said Annabelle.
“That’s not my idea of a good time,” said Shannon, “but I guess it will do.”
“We’ll make love!” she commented.
“Don’t bother; I’m satisfied with it or without it,” said Shannon.
Her eyes lit up, not knowing what to say; her body was normally her weapon to all her victories. “I really love you Shannon,” she said sincerely.
“Will you get drunk with me in the cornfields in the summer?” he asked.
She repeated the phrase to him: I love you, I really love you, I do, I do, I love you, I really, truly love you. But somehow that didn’t hit home with him. It was a little fake, hollow, like an empty can of beans.
Into his mind he saw the cornfields, and his old wife, the one he really loved, thought he loved, the one that silently left him. She loved him, she was his woman. They drank together in the cornfields, like alligators swim together in the swamps.
He knew, somehow he knew, Maribel, and even Annabelle would never be enough. But they were enough for the moment. He would always stray away, he knew this; he simply loved those cornfields.
Josh, Zam-Zam and Jake
On the Third Shift
Affectation, can often be like confrontation, a good thing if handled properly, for those who are affected, it perhaps steams from hypocrisy, or deceit, or even vanity, but it becomes less a burden, less awkward, when one works on who he really is, than on whom he’d like to be …
“Why don’ you get married?” said Annabelle, to Old Josh.
“I want to lead my own life,” he commented.
“Well, then you should get out of this diner businesses, it puts you in a stupor!”
“No. I have it here the way I like it.” He told her.
“I say, don’t be obstinate, look how smoky and noisy and crowded it is in here, people can hardly move, the music is loud the moment people open the door on this third shift.”
“Funny, I don’t hear a thing,” then turned up his hearing aid, “yup, it sure is loud,” and walked away.
Someone had put several coins in the jukebox, and a small black boy was tap-dancing to the music, in the middle of the diner for loose change.
“I like him,” said Annabelle, “what’s his name Josh?”
“Zam-Zam, that’s what they call him anyhow; he comes in every so often a damn good dancer too.”
“I like him,” said Annabelle.
“Yaw, I’m kind of fond of him myself.”
Young Jake Harding was sitting in the back as usually of the counter, along site it, his guitar leaning against the diner wall, he shrugged his shoulders at the disturbance, it was 3:00 a.m., normally the time he got to sing his Rick Nelson songs, and he wanted to sing “It’s late,” he had practiced it all day. He’d go home when the first shift came on typically. But this evening Zam-Zam had broken his concentration, made it miserable for him to remain in his normal sedate constancy, his friendly mood was changed. Josh had noticed that.
“What’s the matter?” asked Josh.
“I don’t know. I just feel terrible.”
Zam-Zam started to collect his loose change from his hat, looked at Jake, and Josh, Josh was hoping he’d not continue, repeat the previous nightmare, that caused Jake to shift into a dark mood.
“Want to go?” asked Josh.
“Let’s go,” replied Jake.
“Alright,” said Josh.
“I’ll go change, down stairs in the dressing room, be back in a minute.”
“Where you going?” asked Annabelle to Josh.
“Downstairs to change my cloths, I’m taking Jake home,”
She nodded her head. “You mean he can find his way home at daybreak, but not at night?” she questioned Josh, adding, “Don’t be so ridiculous.”
“The streets are safer in the morning than at night,” responded Josh. She kissed him on the cheek, “I suppose your right.”
“Ready,” said Josh to Jake.
“Well, maybe…I’ll be here tomorrow night Annabelle, and so goodnight, sorry about having to have Josh take me home, wish I wasn’t blind, then I’d not be a burden on anyone.”
It is summer now in Minnesota, and the cornfields are high, and the trains are whizzing by the farmyards just outside of the city, Maribel is in San Francisco, she is dating someone. Poggi is walking with his dog along side of the Mississippi River. Old Josh is cooking at the diner. Shannon O’Day, has just stripped off his cloths, he’s in the cornfields, looking up at the crows, and he’s got a bottle of red wine, a six pack of beer, and a bottle of rum, he can hear the train coming. He kicks off his shoes, Annabelle, is there by his side, they went to Paris, and she looks as happy as a china rose in full blossom, they have been staying out there every night until the moon lights up, drinking away, she cast-off her garments, they both feel free as birds, and the old man, now her companion, and his new sidekick (he told himself he didn’t need a wife anymore, a sidekick was better), examine the bottles and each other and the sky. She’s now a snappy dresser, times have changed. A rat just ran by, it stopped took a long look, and then a train of little rats joined the big rat, and ran deep into the cornfields, “I think that was Rata,” said Shannon, to Annabelle, and they started laughing, and laughing, until they had to hold their bellies. As they lay back, the air seemed to soften the mood. Shannon gets an urge, the warm air is blowing all around them, her lips are moist. Shannon knew what he wanted all along and he got it.
The only source around pretense is truth!
Shannon looked up in the sky, his young little mistress looked at him, “What is life all about?” she asked Shannon.
“How would I know,” he said. “I just know everyone is trying to be respectable, while they pick your pocket.”
He knew she could not learn it in the cornfield with him, no more than a matador can learn how to fight bulls, watching television, or reading a book, you had to engage yourself into whatever part of life you wanted.
“Yes, dear, I’ve been around, too much, way too much, drink your wine and beer and be content!” said Shannon, “This is some really dull talk,” he added.
“How about some of that rum?” asked Annabelle?
“Yaw, give me the bottle,” and she handed it to him, and he drank some straight from the bottle.
“Ok, OK I’ll brighten your future up for you,” he noticed her glass was empty, and filled it half way with rum, “just lie quiet and I’ll think up something rotten, better for you to hear that side of life.”
“Yes. Didn’t I ask you so? I’m ready for the big rotten world, yes, bring it on.” She pulled out a cigarette pack, offered Shannon one, he declined.
“I know things change, and I do not care. It’s been changed for me many times. Let it all change again, and it will. I’ll be gone before you, and you’ll change too, before the end of the world comes. Those long gravel paths I used to walk as a kid, are still around, it makes no difference: I’ve seen it come and go, things that you know, don’t know; I learned I can’t save the world, so let those who can do it. If you get the chance to see it, do it, while it’s still whole. The thing I told my daughter to do was simple: work and learn, make it easy on yourself, you’ll live longer. We all have a story for a book, but we are more than a book.”
“What are you doing there,” asked Annabelle, he was scribbling something down on an old envelope, with a pencil.
“Just a poem,” and then he fell backwards, and passed out.
By Shannon O’Day
She’s the spider not the fly-
She has the cat’s eye, not I-
She’s like a serpent in the night,
Beware, beware of her plight!
She’s the Snyder not the fly
No: 2580 (3-24-2009)
Author’s Final Note to the Reader
All right, the story has come to an end and life will go on from here, it always does, doesn’t it. It took me all of three days to write it (12-hours per day), all day long, and most of the night, to the wee hours of the morning, 3:00 a.m. But do you ever wonder what is truth and where is it in a story, and what is fiction, or where is it, and what parts are purely imaginations, and so forth and so on. So it was worth the effort, and now let me clear up for the curious reader a few of these points.
Mickey’s Diner is a real location, and the author has been there many times, especially with his wife and mother, the story puts it about in its proper location, it has been there since the 1930s, still is, it is a landmark.
The author also has owned a house on Albemarle Street, and NSP is where the author puts it also. The author did go to Erie, and lives in St. Paul, among other places. He did work in 1966, at Malibu Iron, and the job he described he did do, the shifting of the iron weights that is, as a youth, back in 1966, the time this story actually takes place.
The robbery was an experience the author had while in Minnesota, as well as acquiring Poison Oak, in San Francisco, and meeting the movie star type woman with the red hair.
The rat, it was kind of a pest more than a pet he had in Lima, Peru, in his garden, somehow he got into the story, he’d actually peek his head out of his hole in the mornings and look at the author, unafraid, and his wife, Rosa, poisoned the poor little fellow (should we call Animal Right’s on her?).
He has walked through some cornfields, and fell to sleep once in a carrot field of all places, and when he was a youth, he lived near the train tracks, and he’d hear the train in the evenings and mornings, and so when he wrote this story, he could hear of course those trains as clear as Elvis’s “Hound Dog.”
He was married a few times, and so Shannon has a little of the author in him, in all directions you might say: does he not?
The author did attend Washington High School, graduate class of 1965. And he has been to many fish markets, from Seattle to Germany, and even in Peru, but never did he find one in Erie, sorry about that.
And this amnesia thing came to his attention when he was in his counseling career, in the 1990s, while working for a Federal Agency. Besides all that, such cases were part of his studies, and felt it fitting to add to the story; in one original case, a man did end up in Germany, not knowing how he got there, from the United States. So he figured what the heck, it fits well into his parody of sorts.
If anyone was a drunk in his lifetime, it was the author, he was a professional drunk, in that, amateurs get sick, and he never did. He started drinking at fifteen, stopped at thirty-six, as of this writing, he has been sober for twenty-five years, and he gives that to the glory of God.
He lived in San Francisco, back in 1968-69, likewise. And he once had a friend, Mike Rossert, whom he used to scale the second story building knock on his window, and be let in by Mike, and they’d go about their way, like Shannon often did with Poggi.
The author puts in a scene with Poggi and the dog, and Poggi with a pipe, a reflection of the author’s days living with his grandfather.
The author mentions, Fay Wray, perhaps because he once met her, and he loves the movie, “King Kong,” the original.
There was a man the author knew in Alabama, back in 1977. He stopped drinking when he was forty, he said it was the worse thing he ever did, but he had to keep a job, and pay the rent on his house, and when he turned 62-years old, after his kids grew up and moved out, and he got his pension, and SSAN, at which time he started back up drinking, his wife left him then. The truth being, he waited for twenty years to drink again, that was always on his mind, like Shannon’s Cornfield you might say, and I suppose Shannon’s wife, who was his drinking companion, did not want to return to that life, whose to say. On the other hand, perhaps like the author’s friend’s wife back in 1977, once he started back up drinking, she flew the coop for the same reason. In any case, he returned to drinking as if he never had stopped, and died four years thereafter.