This is my fourth semi-annual writing invitational. The previous three have been based on specific song titles: "This Bed of Roses," "El Paso," and "Maggie May."
The theme this time is somewhat broader: any country western song.
The various authors hope you enjoy the stories — Jake Rivers
A nod to Microsoft for their great new product, Sync, that makes media of various kinds actually make sense on automobiles.
Thanks to Techsan and Lady Cibelle for their editing assistance. Thier help is always appreciated ... and it makes a huge difference in the readability of my stories.
Be aware that I am taking some artistic license with the dates that certain events take place: for example, the Army Airborne Jump School is now held only at Fort Benning, Georgia. Way too many years ago when I was in the 82nd Airborne, jump school was also held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, outside of Fayetteville, NC. Also, the 2nd Battalion of the 504th Airborne Infantry was resurrected during 1960.
Blue Side of Lonesome (written by Leon Payne)
"I'm calling to tell you its over.
Yes, darling, you're now free to go.
You're saying you're sorry you hurt me.
But you hurt me much more than you know."
WHO'S CHEATING WHO
"I thought I knew her well.
I really couldn't tell,
That she had another lover on her mind.
You see, it felt so right,
When she held me tight.
How could I be so blind?"
Even though my name was really Jack — Jack Johnson — everyone always wanted to call me John. It was a particular problem when I (against my Dad's advice) joined the Army. There are sergeants scattered all over the world that are convinced they knew John Johnson. Now who would name their son John Johnson ... that's a pathetic name!
Lately I have been thinking thoughts I never expected to have on my mind. I'd always been impressed with the implied sanctity of that bit in the wedding vows where the bride and groom promise to love only one another, " ... until death do us part." That had caught my attention as being somewhat serious and I took it literally. I'd for sure assumed that Jenny Johnson nee Wilson had felt the same.
So I'd been musing: what is it that leads a man or woman into that sense that all is not right with their marriage ... that infidelity may be in the air? I hear men say that they never had a clue — that there was nothing that they could perceive that might have indicated a straying wife.
Other men indicated that there were clues: changes in behavior that, though they were small in themselves, led to an aggregate that said in big bold letters: cheater, cheater!
Maybe everyone is right: there is such a vast range in the personalities, attitudes, and learned and instinctive behaviors that each situation is different. For me it was simple. You live with a person long enough, and if you have any sensitivity or empathy towards your 'significant other, ' you can tell that the relationship is not right, that changes are taking place, possibly, even probably, unbeknownst to you. Now these changes may be sudden and strong as an earthquake or slow and so incremental that you aren't sure if anything has changed at all.
But, it isn't really being able to quantify and identify what the changes are ... it's just that at some subliminal level you sense that something has changed. You become uneasy without knowing why. Your comfort level with your spouse is not the same but you are not really uncomfortable at all. It's like there was some infinitesimal shift in the space/time continuum and one day you realize that the world is a different place ... but still awfully familiar. It would be like you had a neighbor that looked and acted exactly the same way but suddenly he was left-handed. You try to figure out whether he was always a lefthander or if all of a sudden maybe you were losing it.
I hesitated to talk to Jenny about it — I mean, what could I say? If I started talking to her about sub-atomic particles and how they were reflecting changes in our relationship she would give me one of those looks and throw away my beer. And dammit, I had about as close a relationship with my Shiner Bock as I did with her. It later turned out that Shiner Bock had my love hands down. And that was without even considering longneck Lonestars. It was hell to realize that your beer was more faithful than your wife!
It took several months of ruminating over the intricacies of married life before all the little disturbances in the force crystallized in the firm conclusion that, "Damn, she's cheating on me." I didn't confront her right away. I came to be curious to see if I could detect any clear changes in her schedule, behavior or her attitude towards me. One thing was for sure though. If she had a problem that I could have helped her with that was serious enough, she could have — and should have — come to me about it so we could work it out. If she hadn't ... well, I wouldn't be feeling one whole hell of a lot of forgiveness.
She hadn't come to me about any problems so when (not if, I was way past if) ugly things came to light of day, it was over. The image came to me of turning over a rotted log in the forest. All the dank, smelly, disgusting things that live in the heart of darkness scurry as fast as they can for another dark hiding place. Would that be the case with Jenny? The nasty things in life that feast on the darkness of infidelity are nothing but ugly and repulsive when seen under the clear light of reason and faithfulness.
Would I forgive her? Can America forsake Chinese imports and Middle-Eastern oil? It's not like I wasn't essentially a man that forgave, I mean I am clearly a forgiving man. When Jenny backed her new Mercedes into the dumpster at the local Kings Soopers, did I yell at her? No, I gave her a supporting hug and told her, "Dear, these things happen." When she forgot my birthday last year, I just smiled and said, "I'm not counting birthdays any more."
But a man has to have some level of pride. Yeah, I know. Pride comes before a fall. But sometimes you have to take the fall if you want to be able to live with yourself. So I spent some considerable time thinking about what I'd do and where I'd go. It turned out later that it didn't make any difference. Circumstances sometimes happen to us and we go with the flow — it seems easier and logical ... even predestined.
THOSE DEVIL'S IN BAGGY PANTS
How had I come to this point? How had I fallen in love with a wanton woman who turned out to have the same degree of loyalty as a hungry shark? Just how had my sweet Jenny turned into a cold-blooded assassin that killed my love with the same compunction she would have swatted a fly.
Well, it was easy and natural, actually. After graduating from Cherry Creek High School in the southeast suburbs of Denver, I enrolled at Denver University. It was a good school and close to home. I was doing great in all my classes — I was probably carrying around a 3.8 GPA — when I got a terminal case of the stupids.
My girlfriend from high school — Mary Lou Fossett — had decided on Fort Lewis College in Durango. We were calling each other regularly with maybe an exchange of letters once a month or so. I tried to call her to see what her plans for Thanksgiving were. I called her a number of times over three days with no luck. I did leave a couple of messages but there was for sure no call back from her.
I had a term paper for English that I'd been putting off. I had to write a paper about a well-known author. I'd picked Rudyard Kipling thinking it would be easy. Well, he turned out to be an incredibly complex person and writer. All of a sudden I had tons of work to do and damn little time to do it in. So I had to decide: finish the paper or go find out why my one true love wasn't answering the phone.
It turned out I made the wrong decision on so many levels it wasn't funny. I drove down to Durango and over to the college. I went to her dorm room — I knew where it was since I'd driven her to the school and helped her move in — but she wasn't there. Her roommate told me to try the Student Union building. Sure enough, she was sitting on the front steps kissing a guy like there was no tomorrow. I watched unobserved for a few minutes and even a dummy like me could see it was a serious kiss.
Finally she came up for air and saw me standing there looking like all kinds of lost. She had the grace to blush and the balls to introduce me to the guy.
"Jack, this is Joey Green. He's my fiancé ... we're getting married in June."
Well, hell! What do you say to that? I mumbled something that even I had no clue what it was and slipped away. I wasn't sure what my feelings were. It was a battle between being numb, feeling godawful stupid, and wondering how I had wound up in Alice's wonderland.
It turned out that my prune of an English teacher was the original hard case and she flunked me without even letting me explain or giving me a second chance. Later I realized that I should have just taken the hit with one failing grade and worked on the rest of my classes. But I wasn't thinking too clearly and I dropped completely out of school and joined the Army.
.... There is more of this story ...