Pierre Duchenne

Drawn to the life of a fur trapper at an early age, scarcely knowing what the life entailed, Pierre Duchenne sailed for the shores of the United States in a majestic clipper, its sails white as snow, its sails billowing like clouds, in the summer of 1817, when he was just eighteen.  While most of his fellow travelers, nearly a hundred in all, gravitated toward the Eastern Seaboard, he hewed to a Western Star, not stopping for good until he was well west of Yellowstone.  There were more practical reasons.  Already trapped out, the eastern shores were well settled by farmers, the Wilderness well-shorn.

Falling in with three fellow Frenchmen in Saint Louis, he secured an Appaloosa colt, buckskin pants, two scratchy wool shirts, a thick elk skin coat, and a smooth-bore musket and a flintlock pistol, a twelve inch knife, as well as a two dozen footlock traps.  There were other items the four of them hoped to trade with the Indians they met along the way for pelts and food.  Across the plains the western Nebraska plains, they ran into the Arapaho, camped along the banks of the South Platte River.  The Native Americans greeted them with curiosity and disdain, and friendship from the call of bondage of common existence.  Lacking common language, they spoke through exaggerated and comical gestures that they both eventually understood.  Spring had not yet come to the mountains.  Not quite a hundred yards upstream from the Indians, they set up camp where they stayed the better part of a month, trading frying pans, dry goods, pistols and muskets that two spare horses carried with the Arapahoes, for pelts of lynx, deer, elk, bear, and the dearest to the wealthy in the East, the beaver.  From them, they learned of dealing with the wiles of the wilderness, especially when it was at its most vicious. Continue reading “Pierre Duchenne”

The tramp returns

The bell on the tramp steamer called out into the thick fog.

A single bell from the buoy off to starboard replied.

Somewhere there were stars beyond the grey blanket.

The ship nosed forward. The bells spoke to each other.

Mor’thn Weeds pulled the collar of his oilskin coat closer and spat over the side. The night stretched out before him.

Lights began to appear in the fog. Dimples at first then pinholes in a grey mist and all the while the double-knock from the rocking waves. Ka-long! Ka-lang! It felt like a log being pulled along a slow river.

Mor’thn licked his lips and waited for the harbour lights to greet him. He counted off the time with her cowrie shell bracelet in his pocket. It had been the longest voyage he’d made so far. He knew there’d be others. He was in no hurry. It was Christmas Eve.

He had a cargo of ermine pelts. Soviet stoat. One thousand. One for each day of the journey. He’d sewed the very finest for her by the light of the oil lamp. With each stitch, he’d counted the hairs on her head. He felt her skin under his fingertips. He’d rubbed his face in the fur and thought of her naked. Continue reading “The tramp returns”

My third church today

The pastor is sermonizing,

the congregation praying,

in a tongue foreign to me.

 

I have a map in my hand.

And a phone for snapping pictures.

I’m a tourist.

The sign on the door says,

as far as my limited

knowledge of the local dialect can decipher,

“All may enter but please respect

your fellow worshipers”

 

They ignore my presence,

respectfully.

I file them under local color,

deferentially.

 

By John Grey

 

 

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Obrigado (or ‘thank you’ in Portuguese)

2008

“What’s he getting locked up for?”

“That can wait,” the driver of the Porsche convertible replies, a forty-something lawyer with a belly that screams he was not in need of the fancy lunch he just shelled out for, the type of meal I can no longer afford on my own dime.

“I mean if you’re asking me to represent this guy, I’d like to—“

“All in due time,” Lawyer Man says, squaring his hands at ten and two.

“When’s that?”

“After he’s vetted you. Made sure you’re the right fit,” Lawyer Man says, face tilted up to the sun as if life couldn’t get any better than this.

I plaster on a smile to keep things upbeat. “I mean, it can’t be that bad if he’s only getting time in the county jail. The really bad guys get prison. At least most of mine do.” Continue reading “Obrigado (or ‘thank you’ in Portuguese)”

Death’s dark angel

As winter feathered into spring, the early weeks of March brought miserable weather, front following front.  One day would have the semblance of spring, the next heralded winter.  Back home from China, looking to come back to the States for good from the Middle Kingdom, I was looking for work.  In the winter ritual of watching Pro football screens together with my father on his big screen, the winter weeks went by as I looked for gainful employment.  With a stubborn, self-possession, my father, now in his tenth decade, was of the generation who never complained of minor ailments or physical irritations, went about life like one a generation or two younger.  It was while we watched the Super Bowl that he first complained of left shoulder pain that he mentioned he had had for a week.  As he sat in his recliner watching the game, he placed a heating pad to the shoulder and took a couple tablets of Tylenol.  He complained no further about it.  Otherwise, his health was ostensibly good, as good as anyone could expect for a ninety-two year old man who flew as a top turret gunner on a B-24 in the Pacific Theater of the cataclysm of the Second World War at the age of sixteen. Continue reading “Death’s dark angel”

Don’t

Look both ways when crossing a street.

In fact, don’t cross streets at all

unless I’m with you.

Don’t approach wild animals.

They could be rabid.

Don’t pick up bugs or snakes.

Despite the temptation,

don’t chase butterflies.

They could lead you to bees and wasps.

Step carefully on polished floors and in tubs.

Grip the handrail when descending stairs.

Don’t talk to strangers.

Don’t even go near them.

And remember,

just because a man is old

that doesn’t make him your grandfather. Continue reading “Don’t”

Humanity alive and well, thank you

It was a gorgeous late-summer afternoon in Istanbul, Turkey.  The pedestrian walkways on both sides of city’s historic Goleta Bridge were packed with international tourists as well as local citizens, either crossing the bridge or catching fish by lowering their fishing-rods to the water below.  The bridge spans over a bay area, naturally curved out from the famous Bosporus Straight, separating Europe and Asia.  Ms. Sydney Walker, an American foreign-exchange student in the Istanbul University was crossing the bridge, when she would decide to take an evening two-hour leisure-cruise in the Straight.  She came down the staircases, went to the counter, bought a ticket, and boarded the next available ferry, already getting filled up with foreigners as well as the locals.

Soon, the ferry began its northwards journey and a voice came over the ferry’s loudspeaker system, welcoming the guests and initiating the descriptions of the historic landmarks on both sides of the Straight.  Sydney got up from her seat, went to the nearby balcony, and began taking a few selfies with some of those landmarks as the backdrops.  At one point, she felt a tap on her shoulder, looked around, and found a gorgeous young lady, head covered with a traditional Islamic head-scarf requesting Sydney to snap a few shots offering her own camera.  She was traveling with an equally gorgeous friend.   Both of them wanted to be in the same series of shots, thus the request.  Sydney happily fulfilled their request while striking up a conversation.  She learned that they were Saira and Karisma, both university students in Tehran, Iran.  They were touring a few neighboring countries during their summer-break.  All three soon became engaged in discussing Istanbul’s attractions, food, arts and culture voicing over the surrounding cacophony. Continue reading “Humanity alive and well, thank you”

The solitary tear

When they came for him, they came for him in the black stillness of a moonless night.  Insolent and gutless, the sons of bitches kicked in the dilapidated door with its peeling paint in the house of sloughing, puttied stucco.  Juan Romero had given us up.  And now, all I am left with is this tattoo of a tear hanging on my cheek.

Ernesto Gonzalez and I were good, until that son-of-bitch, Juan, came into our lives.  Sure we were just getting by, living from paycheck to paycheck with our combined paychecks, Ernesto from the garage, me from the bakery, and though we could have called any other house a mansion, we lived the small happinesses that most any couple do who’ve been together for three years.

When they came for him, they were drawn to the bedroom, where I was mewling like a cat, Ernesto thrusting himself deep inside of me.  That door they didn’t have to knock down.  One of the four officers snatched Juan from the top of me, throwing him to the floor, then another one helping the first one to pin Juan’s arm behind his back, as they rolled him over and stood him up.  His manhood was at half-mast, and as they shook him, his cock waved like a wind sock at the airport.  I sat there watching it, propped on my elbow, naked, the sheets drawn up to my chin.  A third officer, grabbed  me and put the shackles on, my breasts swinging back and forth, the officers snickering.  “Who are you?” one of the officers directed at me. Continue reading “The solitary tear”

Capture

He had the steering wheel in a rigid grip. He hated heights, and bridges terrified him. But he had to make the commute twice a week, and his time was valuable. Besides, his patients needed him.

He was halfway across the bridge and could see the far side. Almost there, almost safe. He wiped his brow and forced himself to breathe.

Then the traffic slowed and stopped. He pounded the wheel and swore. Then he saw the police cars in his mirror. One, two, maybe ten. They turned and cut off the lanes. Nobody could move.

 

Four men got out of an unmarked van and immediately summoned the supervisors already on site. The newly arrived men had equipment of some sort strapped to their bodies, and most revealingly, ropes coiled around their shoulders. Their vision was directed to the top of the two-hundred-foot central spire.

There was a person at its summit. A jumper. Continue reading “Capture”

Extended families

She now has a third parent

by the name of Ritalin.

Unlike her mother and father,

it helps put her toys away

 

in the right boxes.

Even her thoughts,

those sometimes more willful toys,

find the right home

 

when no longer needed.

Her parents back off,

let the newcomer succeed

where they feel they’ve failed.

 

She seems nervier now, though.

And eats less than ever.

So her mother and father

continue to worry about the child.

 

The third parent

has a sister called Valium.

She too is

available for parenting.

 

By John Grey

 

 

2018 Winners' Anthology Available on Amazon

The paperback version is now available for $10 US.

Purchase it here.

Or, you can buy the e-book for only $4.19 US here.