• 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



• 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