• mental meltdown •

A man is having a mental meltdown, one night, on the side of an interstate highway. He weeps, disconsolately, the very picture of exposure and defeat. Headlights from slowing vehicles Illuminate the bizarre scene. Strobes from a prowler slash the night sky at stultifying and painful intervals. Here and there, scattered on the ground before the loon, elements of what may be a sideboard, are revealed to baffled passing motorists.

Above the fray, two ‘Staties’ (state highway patrolmen) stand silhouetted in stark relief, looming over the shattered subject.

Of the two public servants, lawman number one has a hat; the sort that Marine Corps drill sergeants wear. The other officer sports a glistening flattop (the results of a latest round of experimental testosterone enhancements) atop a sweating pate. He is slowly shaking his not-insubstantial head, over a not-insubstantial neck, which are, in turn, supported by a pair of decidedly not-insubstantial shoulders, and so on, right down to his not-insubstantial predisposed thick-necked genome. The constable looks down on the flailing ‘perp’, with embarrassment, chagrin, and something akin to the pity one feels for a dewy-eyed gazelle, on an African savanna, just before David Attenborough says something pithy about ‘natural selection’.

In fact, what the officer is thinking is, ‘Pitiful.’

Surveying the scene with the sort of satisfaction a cat gets from snagging a lady’s last pair of nylons, the first officer clicks his tongue, in the direction of his partner, and points, ‘Indian style’, with his chin, at the results of his own diabolical innovation: a roadside sobriety test, as daunting as any, exulting, “I call it, the IKEA. Catches out the stoners, every time.”

~ Tim Burchfield

4/15/18

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• on this, the fiftieth anniversary •

On this, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Doctor Martin Luther King, I recall, as a child, back in the sixties, seeing a long, long train of black men and women, walking silently in the rain, holding the hands of their children, along the side of the main road, on a soaking summers day, as we drove slowly past, on our way to our yearly family summer vacation.

Some people had umbrellas, as I recall, but most were soaked to the bone, in what looked to be, to my five-year-old eyes, their Sunday best. It wasn’t wet Sunday shoes, slogging through wet grass, that got my attention, though I did marvel at that(as wet shoes were a big no-no, in our house). It was this: every face looked as if they carried an unnamed burden. All, in unity, a veritable marching community, who had a plan, and were determined to see it through. Or, that’s the impression I seem to recall. A very pervasive reverence, to be sure.

My parents sat silent, in the front of our ‘56 Buick, and answered none of my questions about who they might be, or where they were going, in the rain, in their Sunday shoes.

Of course, I couldn’t have known where all these ‘church folks’, were headed, with their silent prayers, or what they were going to do, when they got there.

I only figured out, years later, what I had (very probably) seen: history in the making. And, at the head of the throng, very probably, marched Doctor Martin Luther King.

I still think about the people, on that long ago summers day, on a rain-soaked highway, and marvel at the remembrance of their conviction, in the face of danger, and of their courage and fortitude, in the face of adversity.

~ Tim Burchfield

4/5/18

• relatively •

When in church, as a kid, if my mom couldn’t get me to sit still, in the pew beside her, she would cross her arms and pinch a piece of me with her vise-like crab claws (you know, the tender part of that ‘turkey flesh’ between your armpit and your elbow), and then, she’s give it a mighty twist. Glory be, did that ever hurt! She’d be sitting there, singing as prettily as you please, and all that time, she would be putting a fire in my flesh, with her goat-hooks, like Beelzebub, in a pillbox hat.

I often think: if I had only had the communication skills, back then, that I do now, why, when my mom told me to ‘sit still’, in church, I could have said, so very politely, “But, mother, I can’t sit still, you see, for the simple reason that it is an impossibility, as I, you, and everyone, and everything in the universe, are always in motion, relative to something else. It’s just the nature of the big wide world, mother, dear, and I am one with it. You see?” And then, I would bat my enormous eyelashes in her general vicinity.

And then, when we got home from church, I would have received a well-deserved beating. (She’d make dad do it.) Now, that’s what I call relativity.

~ Tim Burchfield

3/24/18

• a lucrative little side business •

Maybe someday (somebody can be) President for life! (*wink*) Just joking. I meant to say, if we’re ‘lucky’.

Given our proclivity for political ‘legacy’ in generations past, I shouldn’t be surprised that a Trump might, someday, become President for Life. (No, that’s what they’ll call it, alright.)

I can just picture it…not the President bit (I’m still in denial, about our ‘present condition’), but the rest of it, yes, and why not? See it through the eyes of a ‘visionary’: (Not me, but, who else? President Trump, silly!).

“Okay, fellas, see if you can wrap your minds around this. Genius coming through. Picture it. Big announcement, right? All over the globe: “Trump Moon Industries and Trump Moon Resorts present, the ONE, the MOON-ly, get it? …

Kay Bella Luna Exclusive Retirement Community! Where successful billionaires, like me, and their girlfriends, of course, can enjoy the best, bar none, of EVERYTHING, at one-eighth of Earth’s gravity…is it one-sixth? I don’t think so. Is it? Okay, you’re fired, thanks. Where was I? Oh, yeah, one-eighth Earth’s gravity!”

Can you imagine that ‘tee-off’? You could ‘knock’ a golf ball (btw, that’s the official term, now, ‘knock’ a golf ball) about a hundred miles!”**

Oh! The moon! The Big Lazer (sic) Show! Get this, fellas, ‘cause this is the pizza day resistance (sic): it’s all done with satellites, and it’s a big laser show, in tribute, to me, and it’s going to be the first use of the moon, I mean, Trump Moon Resorts, we have to get used to saying that…as a LUNAR T.V., through the marvels of modern technology! We could run commercials, twenty four seven, using the moon, like a big T.V., for the whole Earth to see! I’m talkin’, BIGLY, baby! BIGLY!!”

** Coincidentally, one moon inhabitant’s entry, in a dairy that came to us from the future, ‘due to an untimely transporter accident’ (sic) reads, “You might not believe this, but I am still finding thousands of golf balls in the regolith, from those Trump Resort bastards, and it’s wrecking my equipment! That was a hundred clicks from here, and five hundred years ago! That’s a lot of ball-knockin’! I’ve been thinking, if I collect, and sell, all ‘those golf balls, on E-Bay, I could have a lucrative little side business for myself.”

~ Tim Burchfield

3/6/18

• strange epithets •

Once you’ve shouted,

“You had ONE JOB to do, people!!”

I know it’s hard,

really hard,

not to shout, “ONE!”

One more time.

You know, for effect.

And, when you try not to say it?

You know?

When you try to hold it back,

the pain!! Right?

In the neck, Right?!! The neck!!!??

I have found, it helps,

now, this is just me,

to find a ‘private moment’, somewhere,

off by myself,

where I can shut my eyes,

clench my fists,

and shiver, for a minute (or three);

and well,

I have been known,

in the long ago past,

after extreme exposure, mind you,

to have hallucinations,

and claw at the air,

and whisper (as far as anyone can make out,

something about,

“Offspring! Offspring!!”)

‘strange epithets’.

But, hey, that’s okay,

take one for the team, I say.

After all, they’re only kids.

~ Tim Burchfield

3/6/18

• the case of the mysterious gran •

My sis has been trying to talk me into using a popular web service whose function is to provide (you) a detailed breakdown of your ‘family tree’, and, in a way, an ‘instant family’, by way of a simple test (a hundred bucks), and a sample of your DNA. To many, that may be a tempting suggestion. And yet, not for me. No offense, sis. Not interested. Thanks anyway. Why? In a word, sex.

Truth is:

After all these years of savoring the deeply Southern ‘mystery’ of my mom’s family situation, I’m ‘hooked’. To her dying day, my mom only had a tremulous emotional hold on the kids of her sisters, her apparently ‘lowered status’ was infuriating to me. I could be found, in my teens, mulling over and over, their strange and incomprehensible behaviors, and stand-offish geniality over the years and decades, the eye rolling, the muted conversations, with far-away fights you could barely hear, with peaks and valleys, and unintelligible shrieks and shushes, always in other rooms of the house: the slammed doors and drawers, the rattled contents in the fridge, the cracking of unneeded ice for bottles of Nehi, never opened: and, ‘little pitcher’, me: I could just die from excitement.

And later, as a young adult, thrilling over news of my mom’s scandalous alleged bastardy, her tales of being locked in solitary by narcissistic nuns, and so after years of intrigue and imaginative speculation lavished on me, well! The senseless senselessness, the uncertainty; and oh! the raised eyebrows, the covering of faces with hands, the guilty pleasures of inappropriate laughing, the misunderstandings! I loved them all. Truly. Over my, shall we say, several decades of life, the mystery became just a part of my story. It doesn’t determine who I am. Only I can do that. I became something else. Me. No mystery there, eh?

So, needless to say, I was only too happy to save the hundred bucks. I had heard some things I didn’t like, because I had lived with my mom’s mom, for some years, from the age of fourteen. She was a peach. A smelly peach, to be sure, and given to going on at length about Dean Martin, and to going as far as making popcorn for us all as we watched him on his weekly t.v. show, “as a family”, as she would say, and the twice-daily back-rubs, yes, with Ben Gay, and by me. She was my Gran. We were meant to be, she and me. What more need I say? Of course, I knew nothing of her varied exploits, then. Oh, dear me, no. She was just Gran, to me, then, and a vociferous cryer, and a Bible-thumper, if a Catholic (we were raised Baptist), at that.

So, I said, “No thank you”, to my darling sis. “Sorry, Sherry-berry. Not interested,” I confessed.

“But, thanks! Don’t get me wrong, if y’all want to do all that, go ahead. Just so’s you know, I’d just as soon you all keep all that stuff to yourselves. Don’t need to know, don’t want to know, no thank you.”

I thought we had achieved a tacit agreement, a mutual nuclear family disarmament.

Then, three days later, from the kitchen, “Oh, your sister said you are 21% Irish, and the rest, Welsh and British. She just wanted you to know.”

“Are you kidding me?!!” I shouted. You could have knocked me over with a feather. This was a clear breach of protocol.

“Never trust a Celt!” I said.

~ Tim Burchfield

3/6/18

• tangent •

Why is it, when your mind occasionally wanders ‘off topic’, you are ‘off on a tangent’? As if there is something intrinsically wrong with the tangential. Off on a tangent, indeed! You know what? I think that’s pejorative, so there, I said it, okay? In fact, I much prefer the kinder and gentler term, ‘digression’, as it carries far less emotional baggage for me. Furthermore…where was I? Oh, yes.

I digress.

~ Tim Burchfield

3/4/18