The Night I Saw Shannon Naked

I closed the book Dubliners, the words of the story “Araby” lingered in my mind. It brought back memories of my first love, maybe my only love, though I have loved several women since. Her name was Shannon after the River Shannon in Ireland. Though she was not Irish and had no Irish blood in her as far as I knew, still she was named for the river the Irish call Abha na Sionainne. I was in the fourth grade and she was my baby sitter.

She sat afternoons with my sister and me after school, watched over us and kept us out of trouble until my mother came home from her job in the cotton mill. Some afternoons she played the piano my mother kept insisting I practice on. Her fingers made their graceful way across the keyboard, giving voice to the notes Beethoven wrote. It was such a lovely sound that it always moved me, sometimes to tears, sometimes filling me with joy. Even today, I cannot hear Beethoven without stopping and letting my imagination recreate those moments when Shannon sat at the piano.

About six, Mother came through the door and hugged us, not once but twice, as if she was making sure we were real and not something from her imagination. Then Shannon gathered up her things and off she disappeared into the evening. The setting sun created a glow around her that made me think of the angel in the picture above my mother’s bed.

I returned Dubliners to its place on the bookshelf. My wife out of town and off tending to her sick sister, I had the house alone. It was getting late and there would be an early morning the next day. All that was left for me to do was let the dog out for one quick run around the yard, then it would be bed for both of us.

The night had turned chilly, so I ran with the dog to keep warm. Five minutes of this running and she was ready to come in for the night. I lay down in my bed with the Irish terrier at its foot. But it was not a night for sleep. It was a night for ghosts.

Not meaning to I had betrayed my first love. One night I sneaked out and followed her home. I was desperate to know her better. Where did she live? Who was her family? She walked a half mile or so until she came to a beat-up old trailer. It was unpainted and rusting, its door only half hinged to the front. I peeked through a window and looked into the interior. Only shadows made by the moonlight revealed what was inside.

She went to a cabinet and pulled out a glass and filled it with water. Slicing a loaf of bread, that was her supper. She got up and walked over to a nearby dresser. For the first time, I realized one leg was shorter than the other. Her back to me, she pulled the pins out of the bun on her head, her black hair falling, falling to the floor like an endless stream of water. She undid the necklace around her neck and laid it out before her. I watched, fascinated, yet also curious to see the real Shannon as she removed her makeup, rinsed her face, dropped her dress.

A fallen branch snapped under my foot. Shannon faced me. No, I couldn’t believe it. It could not be. It was her face, but it wasn’t her face. Horrified at what I had seen, I dashed home as fast as I could.

Though I never saw Shannon again, I am haunted by that night and how I broke the heart of the woman I loved. Sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up to the sound of music as her fingers touch the keys of my mother’s piano downstairs.

Sammy

Oh, to be nineteen again and work in the A & P and ring up a queen of a girl in her bathing suit for a can of I-can’t-remember-what and quit my job and leave my co-worker, Stokesie, and the manager of the store, Lengel, behind and walk out into a whole new life. Sometimes you get a chance and you take that one chance and everything changes. It was such a good spring day to be alive and the air was sweeter than any I have breathed before or since. It was a good day to go out and see the world.

The girl and her two friends were gone when I got outside, but that didn’t matter. I was a man now because I had made a man’s decision. I had said goodbye to all the things I hated when I walked out of that store, and there was no going back. I walked over to the blue ’54 Chevy my dad gave me for my eighteenth birthday, got into it, checked my gas gauge and decided I had enough fuel to get me to the beach five miles away and back. I knew I had see that girl again, and there was no better time than then to see her.

I drove to the beach and parked my car, then ambled over to the food stand. “Where does a guy go around here if he needs a job?” I asked the man inside the stand, improvising my way through this part of the day.

“What kind of job you looking for?” he wanted to know.

“Lifeguard,” I said, continuing to make things up. Surprised that things were going in the direction they were going in.

“You a good swimmer?”

“The best.”

“Better’n me?” He pulled off his apron.

I gave him a good up-and-down and decided just maybe. “I didn’t bring a set of trunks.”

He reached down and pulled a pair out from under the counter and threw them at me.

“You can change over yonder.” He pointed toward a men’s room several yards away.

I took the swim trunks and ran to change. Several minutes later I walked back to the stand. I handed him my jeans and shirt and shoes. He put them under the counter. “They’ll be safe here,” he said and locked the stand up.

We raced down to the water and I was first in. The water, cold but not too cold, came up to my waist. I dived in and headed for the platform floating in the ocean. About halfway there, the guy pulled ahead of me. I was a good swimmer but this guy was a fish. He got to the platform and crawled out of the water and stood watching me. Grabbing the edge of the wood, I pulled myself up onto it. I steadied myself. He hauled off and hit me hard with his fist. I hit the water. What the–?

I swam under the wooden floor, came up on the other side, crawled up on the platform and rammed into him. He fell back into the ocean. I watched him go under the water and then his head appeared again and now he was trying to get his breath. I jumped in and grabbed him. He fought me hard, real hard. But soon I had him up on the platform and I was breathing mouth-to-mouth, scared as all get-out. He was not moving. Then water shot out of his mouth.

Slowly he sat up. Then he looked at me with that look that made me think I was lucky knowing him. “You got the job,” he said.

On the beach, the queen waved to me.

The Writing Touch

To all you Nanowrimers out there, I raise my glass and sing this song:

It took me near
a half century.
I read all the books.
There were so many.

You’d think I’d have
the Writing Touch
but all my stories,
they’re not so much.

My Protagonist
is such a klutz,
he loses the girl
to a weasel of a wuss.

My Gatsby don’t
gat at all,
my tall-in-the-saddle
a wee bit small.

My Moby Dick
wasn’t a whale,
just a goldfish
all white and pale.

My Huck Finn
on a river raft
sank with a hole
in the craft.

My James Bond
He’s in reverse;
Mister Goldfinger
gave him a curse.

My Don Quixote
never left home,
My Emma died
an old maid alone.

I wrote about peace,
wrote about war,
but all my battles
were such a bore.

So don’t stop like me
when the draft ain’t fine.
Keep on at it,
make the sparkle shine.

Dear Mr. President

Tuesday being Election Day, I thought I’d publish a little American history humor. A letter written to our first President and his response. Enjoy.

Dear President Washington,

You went and did it. You made Tom Jefferson the Secretary of State. Can you believe it? He thinks he’s smarter than everybody else. Reading all them books. Show off. Me, I didn’t get past kindergarten and it ain’t hurt me nary a bit. Next think you know he’ll be wanting everybody to speak French.

You know what the Bible says about Graven Images. What did you do? You went and hired that Alex Hamilton for Treasury. Now we got ten dollar bills with his face on it.

That John Adams for Vice President. Can you believe it? There ain’t a bit of vice in that old coot. He wouldn’t know a party if it up and bit him.

And what’s this about a whiskey tax. I gotta tell you my moonshine tastes fine without no tax tacked on.

Then you allowed those toothpaste ads on the copies you sent out of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I know you have to pay for the guvmint somehow. But those toothpaste ads are just atrocious. “You’ll wonder where the yellow went When you brush your teeth with Termitadent.” Why didn’t somebody tell me them were real termites? You need to get the FDA involved. Tell them my mouth is still so yellow that my neighbors are calling it Ol’ Yeller. And now my teeth are gone.

You know how much it costs to have a set of choppers made out of good solid oak? Well, it’s a lot. Almost as much as my wooden leg.

That’s about it. You were such a great general. Our beloved “Great Stone Face”. At Valley Forge, my buddies and I were recommending you to be the first face they put on Mount Rushmore. Now you went and done all this. I am so disappointed I am thinking about voting for that scoundrel, Aaron Burr, in ’92.

Well, you give Mrs. Washington a big howdy for me. I know you been wanting a kid. Just want you to know there’s this new-fangled technique called in vitro fertilization. Maybe it can help y’all have that little one.

Here’s hoping we’ll be seeing you at the Mount Vernon Fireworks for the Fourth next year. You always do a good do.

Your s truly,
John Q. Public

******
Dear John,

I received your letter. It’s always good to hear from the folks back home.

I heard the news and I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you lost that girl friend of yours. I can’t believe she couldn’t tell you face-to-face. She had to tell you in a letter. And she had to light out with that no-good Daniel Boone. I would send the FBI after them. But the CIA has told me they are now out of United States jurisdiction. They went to some place called Kentucky.

Them were some darn good recommendations you made. I have convinced Tom Jefferson not to read in public. I also am recommending to Congress that no French be spoken in the United States at all, except when that French fella de Tocqueville comes for a little sit-down.

We’ve heard your complaint about Alex’s image on the sawbuck. Secretary Hamilton said that he talked to the Almighty Himself. God told him to put those images on the paper money. You know how it is. There is no arguing with the Almighty. ‘Course I am not much for paper currency. I only take gold for payment in kind.

I do apologize for John Adams’ frown. I’ve tried everything and nothing will turn that frown upside down. Not even a night of sex with Abby. And you know how close he and Abby are? They’re like two peas in a pod.

Now the whiskey tax, we can do something about. We are repealing it. Instead we’re going to institute a gasoline tax. Since automobiles haven’t been invented yet, that tax won’t cost folks an arm and a leg. Oh, sorry about the wooden leg. I told you to get out of the way of that cannon ball at Yorktown. But you just wouldn’t listen.

I agree with you about Termitadent. I tried it myself and lost my wisdom teeth. We are having the FDA look into the matter.

To compensate for the damage, I have asked Congress to pass a G. I. Bill. All veterans of the war with the Redcoats will receive one set of choppers free. You’ll just have to pay the postage. I asked my Postmaster General Ben Franklin to belay the cost. Then he started quoting me from Poor Richard’s Almanak. I just couldn’t shut him up.

I did send your recommendation about Mount Rushmore over to the Interior Department. They told me that Abe Lincoln was going to be first. They are still mad about that cherry tree that used to be on the White House lawn. I keep telling them that I didn’t chop it down. It was Aaron Burr. But no, they won’t believe me. They are still mad about that intern. I can’t tell you how many times I have said that I did not have sex with that woman. Won’t nobody believe me?

Thanks for the recommendation about the in vitro. Martha is looking into it. Unfortunately she does not like needles. I can’t even convince her to get that tattoo of King George 3 off her butt. She doesn’t understand that it was part of the treaty we signed with the Brits in ’83. But I am working on her.

Looking forward to the Big Do come next Fourth. As always, we will have some surprises. And Willie Nelson has finally agreed to come and host the thing.

Always smiling,
George Washington
Father of your Country