Monthly Archives: June 2016

Randy Ford Author- LONG LONG RIDE


            by Randy Ford

To reassure herself on a hot day Pat told Sid to pack energy bars and extra water. As she watched her husband get ready for a bicycle ride, she thought he looked healthy and strong. Even though he had been involved in a few silly falls, she didn’t worry about him
“Why don’t you come along?” he asked. “I’ll let you lead.”

No thanks, you go ahead,” she answered. There was a time she would’ve joined him. Many times she enjoyed riding with him.

Looking back on it, she remembered thinking something wasn’t quite right. She remembered thinking that there was something not quite right with him, and when he didn’t return within an hour he set, she began worrying. Indeed, had she known of chest pains, she would’ve prevented him from going. She kept coming back to this. But she also knew she couldn’t have kept him from going.
And now what? Sid’s heart attack and death hit her hard. It happened when she wasn’t there, during a bicycle ride that she refused to go on. It struck without warning, or so she thought, because she never knew about chest pains. Now she had to live alone.

He died within sight of a summit and without anyone around. She knew view from there, a view that extended for miles and miles. Why did he have to spoil this view for her? She didn’t feel ready to go there to lay a wreath, build a shrine, nor do something else. To even go to her husband’s funeral was a struggle.

Well, around the house unable to stop crying she puttered and moped and avoided opening his side of their closet. She didn’t know yet what she would do with his clothing. She tried not to think about it because it hurt too much. She tried to gather all things around the house that reminded her of him and place them in his study. She didn’t know if she could give any of it away. She threw away a few things, which caused her great pain. All she could see ahead of her was a long dreary road. She didn’t know what she would do next, nor if she could get on a bicycle again. It was funny how she couldn’t follow her own advice and adopt a cat. It was way too soon, too soon for many things, too soon to get on a bike and go on a ride.

Feeling puny and putrid she didn’t feel like eating, and she listened for Sid’s voice…wanted to hear Sid’s voice. Ached and missed him more than anything. Yearned to feel his arms encircling her again and then cried. Broke down in shower, broke down in car, and when she cried it embarrassed her. Broke down when she suddenly found herself in middle of an intersection too. She couldn’t help herself. And felt like she’d never be happy again. So she cleaned, cleaned windows, clear and cleaned both porches, kept bathroom sparkling, and pulled all weeds in yard. And as she worked herself to death, she kept recalling this and that about Sid. Oh, memories. They were so painful. Memories were painful.

There were days when she couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes she couldn’t answer door even for friends. She resented unsolicited advice or help. No one understood when everyone thought they did. Their assumptions were bull. It got where it didn’t make any difference who was around and who came and went. She just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Die and be with Sid.

Be brave. Don’t cry. Jesus wept. According to Bible, God saves our tears in a bottle. According to Bible, Jesus. Talking to her son helped. And as he came around more, accepting help became easier for her.

It was harder and lonelier at night. That was when she would listen for Sid’s voice. Barking dogs would irritate her. If only she could hear his voice and know he was there. Damn him! When she wasn’t paying attention, she burned herself on the stove. It hurt, and she laughed. Horrors! She laughed about it.

Yet may she not still have a life, even after what she’s faced? Why did she need such a big house? What if she sold it? Each room held memories. Ah, sure, she loved house, but why did she need so much room? But she didn’t move right away. Too soon for it too move.

So now what? From a catatonic, shattered state she began to emerge and began a search for a new beginning. As fog began to lift, she began to see that she might have a future. Maybe she could get closer to her son and spend more time with grandchildren and friends.

Sid should’ve told her about his chest pains, so that they could’ve done something about them. But Pat knew that she couldn’t go back. That last morning they read books while they ate their breakfast, all absorbed, him about God and universe and her about crime and mystery. When they spoke, it was about news of the day. “But see!” She exclaimed, thinking about him. “See what happened to you!”

Now go in peace. It was all private. Funny how she didn’t go riding with him! Peace! She knew that she needed to move down the road. Get on a bicycle again. Peace. Peace. Only she wished that there were a way to soften blow.
But she knew that her life would be tougher and rougher without Sid. She would have to find her confront zone.

Randy Ford


Leave a comment

Filed under short story



by Randy Ford

Over 3,000 miles in saddle. She and I. On bicycles. She always behind.  I stay ahead. I always wait.  Always wait for her.  Waiting.  Make notes while waiting   I wait and then take off.  Wait and then take off.  Married. Married ten years.  No children.  No children yet.  Loving relationship.  Two people in constant motion.  One person constantly playing catchup. Never sleep in same place. Never in motel or tent. Rarely under tarp. Always in open. One person always cooks.  She cooks.  Eat out of stores.  Eat out of cans.  Eat sardines every other day.  Cross country. My idea. She tags along.   Scarcely could afford it.  Quit jobs and on shoestring.

She a social worker. Never wanted to go.  Never wanted to leave East.  Says she didn’t lose anything out West.  Gave up home, family, friends.  Gave up home, family, friends to go out West.  Gave up home, family friends to go nowhere.   Doesn’t know where we will end up.  Doesn’t know how to tell me. Doesn’t know how to tell me “no.”  Doesn’t know how to set her foot down.  Drags feet. Hees and haws. Can she ever say” no” to me? Days long for her.  Days in saddle exhaust her.  Still she cooks.  I set up camp.  Set duties.  Set routine.  She a social worker.  She should know better.  I am locomotive.  She is caboose.

I a sawmill worker. Worked on green chain. Night shift. Tossing lumber.  Forty below. Didn’t matter.  She a social worker.  Should know better.

Put off having children. On pill. Obviously in agreement here. Population problem. Big problem.  Biggest problem. Too many mouths to feed. Problem finding right bicycles. Right size. Right fit. Right saddle for her.  Where to start? When to start? Where to go? Whether to go at all? Consider future. Leaving home, family, friends. Unless we love each other as a couple stay together as a couple because we love each other and show reciprocal affection we won’t make it. May kill each other. Only thing to say with confidence…it takes balls. Not something she would say. Male and female.

Tips. Start slow. Stay Safe. Follow rules. Remain hydrated. Ride with traffic, not against it. Equipment. Helmets. Water bottles. Pump. Tire repair kit. Spare inner tubes. Gloves. So thinking of taking a long ride? Buy saddles especially made for women.  Buy right saddle for her because I have to keep her happy. Don’t be a fool.

American. Country? United States. From Maine to Nowhere Arizona. On bicycles. Heavily loaded. Too heavy! What to pitch to lighten the load? A heated debate. Been through it before. Yesterday. Day before. I set example.  Gave away tent.

Everything same, same o same o, yet different. After long, tiring day different town to explore.  Every town.  A ritual now.  New Portland, Strong, Mt. Blue State Park. Mt. Blue State Park battling mosquitos.  Need tent.  Tent too heavy. Conway, Lebanan, Rutland, Whitehall, Glen Falls and Saratoga Springs. Saratoga. Wasn’t there a famous battle fought here?  Fort.  Replica.  Down to Albany. Loves me, hates, hates me for racing ahead. Leaves her behind all time.   Wait on her all time.  Gives time to write notes.  Takes off as soon as she caches up.  Exhaust her. Never catches up. And at end of day, I want to explore towns. She wants to collapse.

Evidence of male dominance. I’m the engine. She’s the caboose. On ride, definitely. After ride, also likely. Peddle day in and day out. Rain or shine. Without clear destination and without eye on future, me in front she behind…though most likely she enjoys some of it:  downs, not so steep downs, one might argue up and down.  For sure some days were for her. Then rain.  Sun. Sweat. Wind, especially wind.  May wind be always at your back.  Wind, wind can be a threat.  Wind also can be a threat. Burning sun. Long days and hot sun.   All summer long. I lead. She follows. Sometimes hot. Sometimes cold…and thus at mercy of weather and terrain…I lead.  She follows.

Drinking from dirty water bottles, or at least half-clean ones. A store, surely they have Sprite. Sprite in days before energy drinks or some such refreshment. A country store. Mom and pop. Retirement income. Pleasant. Nice break. I watch our loaded bikes. She goes insides. Looks for something nutritious. Have to eat. Have to drink. No junk. Sometimes not much. No pep pills. No pep. Always sardines.  Grown to hate sardines.  Never enough carbs.  I love Dr. Pepper. No diet. Can use all calories I can get.  Never enough carbs.  Losing weight.

And why? Why argue with me? “What does Zen have anything to do with it?” she asks.  Zazen. Sutras, Koans. Books don’t help. Bicycle Zen equals motorcycle Zen but definitely distinct from it because of effort involved. And what about bicycle maintenance? Like flat tires, funny noises, broken spokes, brake pad wear, drivetrain problems, chain slippage, and fingers all greasy and black…as though our first priority is to ignore symptoms until impending disaster occurs, as if safety were an afterthought. One almost imagines we plan these events.

“Hey, where you headed?”

“Hey, where you from?

“Up one hill and down another.”

“Never try to outrun a dog. Yell, ‘Go home!’”

Bicycling Zen. Can’t go too slow down a mountain, or too fast up one. Anticipating a hill defeats you before you get there. An attentive rider notes scenery instead of road ahead. We learned not to fret hills or fight wind, and fly on good days when wind is at our back. Search for right gear. Praise short climb, gentle grade, curse false summits, and pause at top.  Enjoy balanced hills.

Simply put miles behind you. Let it happen.

An experience that should deepen our bond, baring mishap. God help! If one of us is involved in an accident! Say a car hits one of us. Or one of us takes a tumble. Or slips on a railroad track. A cattle guard. Oil slick. White stripe. Never hit a rooster. Avoid turtles.  Avoid geese.  Don’t brake too hard. And keep her in mind. So up or down walk when it gets really steep. And carefully choose route.

Look! A hawk! An eagle! Not an eagle. A turkey vulture! No, an airplane, a big, big bird. Not uncommon to catch attention of a horse, curious compared to a cow, singing to get your mind off all work. “Tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree,’ which neither one of us knows all words to. “I’m coming home/I’ve done my time/Now I’ve got to know what is or isn’t/if you receive my letter telling you I’d soon be…” A home all she ever wanted. Perfectly satisfied back in Maine.

Our ascent difficult. Our descent steep. Fear. Walk. Without a doubt, walk! Vermont certainly long and hard. Push up mountain. Up they go. “We’ll have to push our bikes up.” Down other side. Too steep to ride. “I can’t hold it.” “Yes, you can.” Resolute. She less so. In some ways steep downs are harder. Definitely scarier. New York certainly easier. Gentler. Along with green fields, flow of long reservoirs suggests relief. Skirt the Catskills. Almost all the way a gentle down. Even for her a breeze.  She must be in better shape.  I told her it would be, after she losses faith. No further urging on my part, no need for it. Fancy me letting her race ahead, enjoying it for the first time, yelling, “See yaw!” and me riding behind her. “See! What did I tell you?” before she’s put off by my attitude and tries to leave me behind. Payback time!

This masterful attempt finally has finally come to an end when she runs out of juice. Again the caboose, without which I feel bad.  Reservoirs are for New York City.  Water for New York City.   As such, they never end, or seem not to. Whether or not it’s intended, water cools us, water and a gentle breeze: It makes our day, and pace increases and in fact rules out need for stops. Would follow us all the way except … but as a rule avoid big cities …or hitch a ride in and hitch a ride out…dangerous and a waste of time except where there are bike paths.

Which ones have them? What about glass, broken bottles and such? Some more crowded than roads are. Best ones go somewhere. Whatever conditions avoid New York City.
Our choice, of course. Back roads are better, whereas The City conjures up bright lights and Lady Liberty…by mutual agreement, note consent, after some small initial misgivings about Pennsylvania on the part of someone. A slight turn west, route 171 seems flat enough. As before it’s two lanes, 1) dairy farming, 2) cows, 3) poultry, and 4) hay. Rolls of hay left in field! Her accident. Her accident’s consequences. Road rash. Luckily, no more than that. Luckily, no more than road rash.  Nothing broken.  No broken bones.  Don’t ask what happened.  More embarrassing than anything.

Central question, route? Take easiest one. Not necessarily most direct. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense or does it? Do I misrepresent it, or not? Another false summit, or what? Can’t always tell on a map.

Though directly west, a series of mountains. Bald Eagle Mountain, North Mountain, South Mountain, Appalachian Mountains. Best way through Appalachian Mountains Old National Road in Maryland. Then we can only surmise …get to Maryland, south of Mason Dixon Line, but there’s first Pennsylvania. And who chooses route? Who has primary responsibility? I lead, she follows, of course, however now willingly. I take her to Scranton, then Wilks Barre. Wilks Barre on Fourth of July. Then followed Susquehana. Smart move. Takes her along … winding river. Bless me. Then, Harrisburg. And as long as we stay on west bank, we avoid big city.

But we’re forgetting about Gettysburg. I have to see Gettysburg. And Harpers Ferry. Curse me! Curse Harpers Ferry. Anyone who’s been to Harpers Ferry knows her frustration. Harpers Ferry totally unnecessary.  Lets me know it. Lets me know it.  She finally tells me “no.”  She finally puts her foot down.  So we skip Harpers Ferry.  So let’s just skip it.

A good way to go and avoid West Virginia, follow old US 40. Scenic but not too difficult. I content myself over choosing right route. But by then she’s somewhat in shape, leaving problem of how to avoid Interstate, and those who know her knows she remains a skeptic. Whatever, I still lead. Another instance of thick-headedness. And to top it off her frustration, and as everyone knows, West Virginia can’t be totally avoided, but almost near end of mountains. And from there nothing but blues skies and clear sailing. Almost. Not quite. That’s clear.

And she still follows me, at a quicker pace, as she increases stamina. Still twice effort for her than for me, but doesn’t complain. No. However someday…yes someday… yes someday she will let me know.  I know because she told me “no” once.
Justice. Call it a Spade. Still I’m in lead. Back into Pennsylvania, across a little sliver of West Virginia, and into Ohio. For now: Ohio…

And following National Pike, a historical route, over old arch bridges and a suspension bridge across the Ohio.  There’s Fort Duquesue.  Through Allegheny Mountains. Up and down, but manageable. No longer pure drudgery for Pat; somewhat reversing order of things (I almost fall, Pat brakes in time, all’s well…) close to parity for once. Both of us enjoy road, first in America to use macadam road surfacing, but I am still in front. Distance between us is to me inconsequential but to her is real.  I remain in front.

Justice unrealized, I don’t see it since I still race ahead, but she’ll have her day, so let me have mine. Punishment.  Punishment enough for now when I almost take a tumble: a close call. Catch myself in time. She almost runs into me. Avoid losing skin, road rash, and embarrassment, so I haven’t earned a badge yet. Assuming she can keep up with me will Pat ever assume lead, I wonder, or will she stay behind? And if indeed she assumes lead and takes responsibility, will she give it back or try to race me?

We cross Suspension Bridge over Ohio without stopping or enjoying river. Without a flat tire, or lunch fixings, having just eaten in Wheeling, cross into Ohio, and climb into another town without enjoying view, without enjoying river. We could’ve picnicked on a bank of Ohio, but instead I peddle on and Pat doesn’t cry foul.  Yes, we missed something. No, we can’t see everything, which has become clear…and, I’m never willing to backtrack, never take responsibility for missing something, which reinforces observation that it doesn’t pay to hurry.

To give a day to day account of our ride across America is not within scope of my given text, however it’s not an excuse for skipping highlights. So what happens in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois? Not resting on Sundays, we coast past many churches, thinking maybe we should stop, but never do…because we’re too dirty and smelly and didn’t bring clothes for it, but no one takes time to invite us in either. Where did Hopewell Indians build their mounds (near Athens)? And we’re never quite sure, not sure of much, and miss world’s largest horseshoe crab (which may disprove evolution), miss Biblewalk and The Living Bible Museum and miss Cincinnati Police Museum (instead of going into city, we camp in a meadow in front of a huge dam). I agree that it’s better to push on than to stop and see these attractions, so then on to Indiana.

Insomuch as Indiana (and Kansas for that matter) is supposed to be flat and when this assertion about southern part is false, only topic they like to talk about when they think of the state of Indiana is basketball. (But how can we forget last night sleeping on the ground with friendly skunks? Or losing Pat’s glasses down inside the cinder-block wall of a shower?) We are basketball fans, so I insist that we ride through French Lick.  French Lick.  Yes, French Lick.   So that I can say we rode down Larry Bird Street, but otherwise French Lick is a disappointment (have it my way, and it’s disappointing). Then cross the Wabass and into Illinois at Mt. Carmel and together ride across Illinois separately. Well. We just crossed the Mississippi, mighty Mississippi at Chester.  Scary bridge.  There’s no way we can miss the Mighty Mississippi, not this time.  But too much traffic for comfort.  Across three states, what we miss we miss, what we see we see, and have to write off rest. But I still lead, have no badges for taking a tumble, and once again it’s time for us to do laundry. Time in a Laundromat is always catch-up time, time for writing and restoring our strength.  Necessary, everyday tasks seem to take up so much time, but why rush? On tour when we don’t know where we’ll end up each night. When we’re out of something to wear, we have to stop. Pat takes care of dirty, smelly laundry, while I write and relax, in hot Laundromats, a stop we have to make once or twice a week. As we were taught early on, we feel better when we’re clean, and both of us try our best but like so many things on a tour it’s not always possible.

Now in Missouri, or Misery depending on her mood. As was the case in every state…to look where we’ve been and where we’re going…she’s never quite sure or if we’re on same page…isn’t quite sure when she’ll run out of oomph and will push herself until she says she’s had enough.

Likewise, in Missouri

I have always wanted to leave my mark in the Ozarks (as well as the Rockies), and set some sort of record and prove myself in a big way, an obsession that actually stems from…I don’t want to be honest. So I don’t go there, or maybe I don’t know why I often choose impossible routes, bite off more than I can chew, and sometimes have to turn back…though it’s the last thing I ever want to do.

That’s it! Conqueror of the Ozarks. Pat is less than enthusiastic. I wouldn’t know because I am all charged up and ready to go (together with my legs) but unlike Pat who has clearly become an accessory.  Hurt of this is coupled with exhaustion and the fact that we’ve been on the road for more than thirty days. I still don’t look back, and it rubs her wrong. Hence her fury is understandable when I’m full of octane.

“You go ahead, Honey. But wait for me on the top.” When she makes it to the top, I’m sitting resting beside the road, so I’m ready to go.

Lean, muscular, and confident. Another down and another up, and she catches up each time on summit. Each time fully rested by the time she appears. Off I go each time before she recovers. It’s as if we climb different mountains, the same road but different mountains- also, in my case because of ease with which I climb each mountain, a gulf between us widens. Widens and widens, she’s no longer on speaking terms with me, but I don’t know it yet. Don’t sense it even.

As my pre-adult urges kick in, I fly down winding mountains, feeling invincible and mindless of danger. On other hand, she tells herself she has to ride at her own pace, ride her brakes, and it frustrates her that she can’t do better. She thinks about how easily I could pummel off a drop-off and plunge to my death. Or hit a guardrail.  But I feel invincible.  Now my adrenaline is really flowing. I fly sans helmet. Down sans helmet. Mindless sans helmet. Stupid sans helmet. Stupid rush sans helmet.  Could kill me when she catches up with me. She thinks they must have a face-to-face talk.

On we go, me in front, she outraged, enraged, still grappling with hurt. Weather threatening. Lighting. Get inside. Stop at a corner store. Put on rain capes. Ride rest of day in rain. Okay.  Rain.  More rain.  Okay. Actually enjoyable. No dogs. Few cars. We can’t believe our luck. Hills and hills and hills. Some are balanced. Some are not. High speed. Almost equal. That’s better. Flooded road. Wind at our back, saving grace. Hail, wind, and rain. Wind and hills be damned. Continue west. Fights over without settling score. She swallows her pride or lets it go. Stops looking for a way to get even. Her mother warned her that it wouldn’t always be easy and always said never go to bed angry. Clear skies at last. No need for a tarp. Ground cloth, air pad, sleeping bag enough. Stretches out looking at stars and extends her hand to me. Thinks she might read her novel but gives up. I grin at her. She can barely hold her eyes open. Tomorrow another long day, tomorrow. I feel satisfied. I sleep on my side with my back to her.  I’ll sleep well. She’ll have to steel herself again.

She won’t recall much of Oklahoma (only that there are more hills and that she gets to meet for first time real Indians. Chickasaw Indians.), except she feels stronger, much stronger, and feels she can make it, but does she want to? But where were we going?  She doesn’t remember speaking about it with me, although she can’t imagine not doing so. Kind of gets into a rhythm. Became kind of an expert at reading my thoughts. My moods. Very sensitive to my moods.  Kind of sees through me. And I want to be her closest friend…in fact I am her only friend because she’s left all of her other friends behind, though she never wanted to and could feel bad about it, if she would let herself.

Meet people along the way. Wonderful people. People who invite us into their homes. Curious people. People want to know where we’re from…where we’re going. I always tell them “we’re heading to Nowhere.” The Kings, the Livingstons, the Jeffcoats. Miz Williams. Going to Nowhere? Yes!  Experience has taught us that it’s better not to say too much. It’s fun to stay cool, though not uncivil. And people like to hear about our experiences, roads we’d bicycled, from Memorial Day through Labor Day but hopefully not through Thanksgiving and Christmas, about peddling across  mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, through the Adrondacks and over the Appalachians, the Ozarks (and don’t forget the Arbukles and Turner Falls. Ah, Turner Falls and baths!), always mountains. Mountains are my beacons. And everyone agrees that both of us deserve medals.

“Geronimo!” I tell her that we have to see Geronimo’s grave. “Geronimo!” It’s what kids yell when they jump off something.  It’s what kids yell when they jump off something and break an arm.   I still yell it when I’m about to dive in over my head, and now facing the Wild West… Geronimo!  Warrior’s legend lives on. His spirit is certainly around, but as far as his grave is concerned, are Geronimo’s bones still there? Pat doesn’t insist on a route or even suggests that we skip something though it may make more sense to go another way. She doesn’t dare say how she feels or that she hasn’t lost anything in Texas. I set aside a whole day for Texas’ Grand Canyon, and she doesn’t mind because she gets to take a shower. Then before we cross into New Mexico, we finish with stark, plaintiveness of the Panhandle. This part of Texas is flat, really flat so flat that it seems to take hours to get to grain elevators or water towers after they emerge from horizon. Pat concedes that stop in the canyon is well worth it. She passively supposes that she wouldn’t have made it across Texas without a shower. But I have a new destination in mind, and Pat with her usual reluctance falls in line. She doesn’t trust me and hasn’t for a long time. She really doesn’t think that we can see the Trinity Site (where world’s first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945), nor is interested in someday developing cancer because of a whim of mine.

Only first, as with Geronimo’s grave, I have to see where Billy the Kid is buried (one of two or three graves with his name on it and depending on who you believe). Pat says nothing; she knows better. Mercifully, Ft. Sumner isn’t out of way, but I insist on looking for graves of other outlaws, while she’s bored and hot, and I find graves of Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre, both killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett’s posse. Then I have to go to Lincoln and spend time there reliving the Lincoln County War. That takes us through Roswell, extraterrestrial Roswell, and then when we get to Lincoln I promise not to be too long. So I park her under shade of a tree, while I explore main street or highway, which means I read every historical marker about war…as if I’ll remember it all. Then of course, it’s fool-hearted to think we can get to the Trinity site, but when we pass Smoky the Bear’s birthplace I don’t know it. Indeed, along the highway there’s no marker or turnoff to test site (or we miss it), only a tiny store at Bingham about halfway between Carrizozo and San Antonio, a full day in saddle for us. As a way of compensation, I go into store and buy a “mushroom cloud” T-shirt, which I’m incline to wear all the time. For Pat, an unexpected victory comes in Magdalene when she spies rock formation called Lady on the Mountain before I do, and I can’t help but gorge on pie in Pietown…incidentally Pat scores another one here because I should know better. Yes, of course.

I remain in the dark about these small victories because she doesn’t hit me over the head with them: as well as other victories, such as riding out of Salt River Canyon in Arizona without stopping. I don’t quite understand why she does it. And at the top, she rides on without stopping and leaves me sitting there beside highway thinking she’s pissed. “But why?” I don’t know the answer and don’t know why it’s suddenly important to her. I don’t see or maybe I don’t want to. But it makes as much sense as choosing to go down and up Salt River Canyon on bicycles, or having Nowhere as a destination. Nowhere, Arizona, a tiny village with a bar and a gas station, straddles Highway 93 a few miles south of Burro Creek, a rock hound heaven. And why Nowhere? Ask me. Nowhere, to me, is as good a destination as say Rattlesnake, Rye or Why, (other villages in Arizona). Now having conquered Salt River Canyon, we’re forced to go through Phoenix to get to Nowhere, unless we backtrack (up and down Salt River Canyon again) to Flagstaff and follow a mountainous and round-about way to Nowhere. Pat certainly prefers it to going through or getting killed in Phoenix. Except I have a rule about backtracking and don’t do it if I can help it. So she’s stuck, or is she?
I may someday perhaps learn. Although it’s highly unlikely. I’ll always tell people I enjoyed my ride across America. I don’t know what she’d say.  I usually don’t mention Pat.

Randy Ford


Leave a comment

Filed under short story

Randy Ford Author- TESTAMENT

by Randy Ford

A man and woman alone in Eden.  All is fair in Eden.  Sunday morning and, ah, life is beautiful for they have the whole world to themselves.  And they kiss.  With kisses.  Kiss Miguel.  Kiss Miquel.  Kiss him back Maria. They are living in God’s midst and realize God’s glory.  Come my, pretty pretty cat.

Hippopotame!  Hippopotame!  Yes’m, a rabbit.  That’s a rat, Miquel, not a rabbit.  A civet!  A juju!  A juju for us, and juju for you!  Those are mice. Those are grasshoppers. Those are snakes, and those are lizards.  A toad.  Two of them.  Three or four…. Crocodile!  A giant water shrew.  They’re ours, all ours.   We get to name them.  Claim them.   We get to build from nothing.   Let us create.

Nobody loves me but you.  That’s not true.  Irreverence.  Goody girl offers her man a smile.  Blushing, the man responds with his best ploy.  She is as funny as he is serious.  She offers him a trinket for his affection.  From goodness to sinful at age 21.

My name is Betty.  Betty but call me Marilyn.  Here man!  (Affectionately.)  I rose up one morning and saw you.   Smell the perfume. my love. Smell the bacon and eggs and jam on burnt toast.  They giggle.  Betty, you’re my darling.  Come indoors.

Who’s staring?  Betty paints her lips red and dons a red wig.  Gawley-gee!   She has suddenly become a cheap girl baby.  Home sweetness. Happiness in abeyance.  Good people can attract exceedingly bad times.

(Seductively.)   Chocolate cake?    No, something tart like lemon pie.  A la perigourdine?
Truffles?  Si!  Strawberries with whip cream?  (In ectasy.)   Cookie dough!  A tollhouse cookie.  Break another wineglass and fling it as far as you can.

(Desperately.)  Ja!  Ja!  Ja!   Get the dogs!  Khoyzek gemacht!  Mocked and kicked!  Shpil!   A game!

Crown the pretenders.  Curses make a family.  Till they go round if they go round again before they break apart and all’s dismissed.  Shame!  Pain!  Paradise after sin.  How she knots with pain.  The worst isn’t over.  He’s guessing.  For her. the worst isn’t over.  They’ve eaten the fruit.   A thing is they must put straight on the spot.   Evidently, my man has failed.

There’s a friendly tug of war between two boys.  God send us men.  Before the day is out, he’ll be stabbed with a Bowie knife.  Miquel is sitting on all the free benches reading about it.

I got a man from the Lord.  The word is my wife is pregnant again.  Two boys, one a keeper of sheep, the other a tiller, and one was accepted and the other one wasn’t.  Grey hairs turned white!  CAIN! (or is it Abel?)   You should be arrested for taking all of the fat.   Abel! (or is it Cain?)   Enough!   Gun shots!   The unmentionable has been reduced to a sound bite. War!  Call it murder.  Call it something else.  Anything    Call it what you like.  Cain banished!

Knock knock.  War’s where?  Knock knock.   Which war?  The latest one!  Knock knock.

Who’s without?  Without what?  Without God.   Knock knock.

This wonderful world’s full of killing people kneeling before God.   N e’er forget God’s daily care.   I beg your pardon.  Having lost a son, I want to keep my grand kids.

And one of these fine days, we’ll have more children.  Hatch well.  The boy she now adores.  Wish him his bests.  And her bests.   Behold God’s glory.  Here, lay down.   Make love.  Hatch well.   Make love till there is stable weather.  Are you enjoying yourself yet?   Have you hatched yourself.  Give her a medal before we call it a day.  Give him a cigar!  Pat on the back!   A cigar!   Sure!   Doesn’t he deserve it?  You said it was highly unlikely and I shall wait to hear you’re not wrong again.  With God’s help, dear.

The earth’s a trot!  The sun is warm.  The air is pure.  The water is great.  Is that an airplane or a train?

We’re all going.  We know we are.  On the spur of the moment, we are.  We’ll travel the whole world over.  Here goes!   We’re going to have a great time.   Buckle up.   Flaps down.   We’re off.   Away we go looking for the perfect oasis.  And bad luck because of  flooding.

Talk about lowness.  Any dog’s quantity oozes out thickly.  One son came out red and the other the hairy one.  Mother sobbed to herself.  The lowness of him was beneath all up to who sunk to.  For a little bread and a pot of lentils, it was the snot’s own fault.   He despised his birthright.  No like be like, his birthright or first-born last or because he didn’t stick with venison or wild buckwheat honey either.  Does it make sense to you?

There was not much life left in his eyes.  Touch him.  It touched us all.  We also had to bury our father.  Touched us all.  He was a very old man.  Stuck on his family.   In other words, a family man.  With milk and crackers as a favorite treat, he would finish his tea by now.   Well, he was full of life, you bet.  Whatever you thought of him, so full of fun and vigor,  give him his due.   For I’m sorry to have to tell you he died last night.

Signifying nothing.   No, no, no, faith, then.   Yes, faith.

I never thought that.  It is great to think about something I never thought about before.  Something inspired.   Something that makes sense.  The whole of the sum.   He was a good man, says she, taken in his prime, says he, in his sleep, says she.  Hopefully, he’s in a good place.  Surely, he is. We know he’s in a good place.  So sorry you lost him.  Things are not as they were.   May he rest in peace.   We don’t have to be brave.   I know that.   Feeling the jitters?

Come!  Clean my slate, and dry my tears.  With all the thrills and ills of so many years and for so many of those years to remain a widow in my father’s house.   I was thinking so much of the time of putting an end to myself.  My moods when I remembered how the Lord slew both of my husbands.   You shouldn’t weep.   You must if you want to live.  Shake the dust off your boots and dream.  Look to the Lord for guidance.  That’s the proper way to get through it.  If it chews you up, swallow it.   Pray and move on!  Ha!  And in the process of time, as sure as there is a God, tomorrow will well be thine.  Quick, he needs comforting.  He just lost his wife.   And when I took my widow’s garment off and sat in an open place, he thought I was a harlot because I covered my face with a veil.  With love, yes love, I made myself look pretty.   You’re my man?  Then come.   My intended, who won’t runaway as I step out of my petticoat.  Here he hesitates, my hero and my father-in-law.  What am I worth?   I get my pledge of a goat from his flock, and he gives me his signet, his bracelets, and his staff, as I flaunt my stuff.   Wait ‘til spring has sprung to see if I’ve conceived.  Nature told everyone about what we did.  A most adventurous woman am I and well rewarded, as you see.   And now I  have twins.   See how quickly I forgot the boys’ father.  Gone are the tears.  And for those who choose to break the law, there’s prison.   Prison.   We’ve discussed these things in the past. fact and fiction, crime without shame, at home and for profit.   And what will my tomorrow bring?   Tell me, tell me, can you interpret dreams?  Dreams?  What did you say about dreams?   We dream our dreams, while we sit in prison.  Who interprets dreams?   Dr. Martin Luther King, JR had a dream.  Then why am I sitting here?  As for Dr. King, I take my hat off.

You’re right.  As long as Joe continues to shape his changeable timetable, there’s no time to rest.   He coordinates a massive effort and because of it, wears fine linen, flashy rings and a gold chain.  XXXXXXXXXX

Table napkins?  Why not.  Look at the stuff!  But where’s the steak?  Porterhouse, if you want to know.  You fool!  Breakfast comes first.    Spade fulls of mounded food, fill those sacks.  Bacon, gobs of grease.   A cold forsaken steak re-cooked in onions.   With Chutney, mmm.    Oh, so good.   Pig?  Pig.  Get her.   She called me a pig! Without prejudice, I prefer round steak, very rare, with rice and peas on the side.  What about a saddlebag steak with gravy and pumpernickel to whoop it up,  as well as a second course?   Baked beans and a big steak, no gristle, not a paddy, maybe a T-bone, with lots of pepper following a cold loin of veal and more cabbage.   Strawberry jam, all free of charge.   And the best wine ever. Jugs of wine.   Some ham, peas, and mash potatoes.   I don’t mean to make a spectacle of myself as I dig into mounds of mash potatoes and, as you dig into those meatballs.

Play ball!   The kids have been playing games all day.   Roger and Bailey kicking someone’s ass and Mary and Jane doing the same.

He had eaten all of my steak, swallowed even the gristle, devoured a whole side of beef, chewed up all the bagels and bacon, approached a record, made mush out of my quiche and ate it all most glutinously.   And I’m suppose to forgive him.   Swallow that!   Forgive someone who’s stabbed you in the back.   He was a friend, a true-blue friend.

We all requested his mercy, as much as we hated to ask for it, but since we came forward with money, have we not without suggesting it for an instant, a right to a little respect.  Excuse me.   The iniquity that ought to have been ours.  He did not have the sackcloth th ought to have been wearing.  e had no room for that.  ‘Till he forgot to act like he should.   Wrongly bound.   Loved not.   Sinned.   Shipped off.   Taken for dead.  Now placed in His hands. Why the weeping?  Why the kisses?

Tommy, as I was made aware of, next stopped to fetch a breath.  The first steps he took in my direction (let God’s son now be looking down on me).  Both of his callused hands, that were plainly made a good deal more rough by the work he did, as he got close to me, as large as he was, I never had a chance.  Was he noted for his inhumane treatment of women, a matter maybe you should put to a half a dozen of us?   He was there, and you could plainly see what he intended.  Perspiring.   All feeling left me when he said, “this ain’t going to hurt you much.”   And he said he thought the world of my life and me, as his sweetheart could be just swell.   Poor, poor Tommy.   Now that he’s doing time.   I’m saying to myself, maybe I can forgive him.   Am I still supposed to forgive him?

Reuben, my first born.  ‘Tis a pity!   He had so much potential.   If only he had not taken shares in the bride.
Simeon and Levi are brothers.   Just a little Judas tonic and bring your scooters along.
And Judah?  A young lion, he shall always rule.   Imagine washing your clothes in wine and brushing your teeth with milk?
Zebulun!   A safe harbor.
Issachar!   He is a strong ass couching down between two burdens.   A slave!   I refuse to believe it.
And the good brother.shall bow his shoulder to bear.  All that has to be done has yet to be done and done again, when days are long and hard.
And Dan shall judge his people.  The snake!
Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he’ll finally win.

And Asher?  A royal pastry does marvels for your soul.
Naphtali is a deer let loose, while Joseph is a fruitful bough.

And Benjamin? My baby.  Do you hear?  Benjamin is my baby?  And on all fours like a wolf he will devour his prey, and at night, he will divide the spoils.   Are there any more?

When he found himself at pointblank range looking down the barrel of a revolver, his whole life flashed before him.  More than a billion bites of data.   Gosh, what with all his troubles, the murky business, the blotched opportunities, the tattered relationships, the inconsistencies, the fox-trotting to keep a head of the pack, the lice, and the scum he knew, the tears, the drinking ….

Slave-makers relentlessly pursue those who run through the bush.   Run, else you’re caught!  One yesterday he collapsed under the weight of a heavy stone.  His fate dictated nothing else from him.   And men like ants, with sore backs working stacks of bricks, and their taskmasters afflicted them with all manner of service in the field.  Who carries the whip?   Not I said the slave driver.

And the king was an ugly person.  Throughout the land he set in motion a plan of death.   Let the midwives carryout his dirty work.   The jurors are out and here are the witnesses.  The gravest embezzlement is the theft of human beings.  Playing down how much slavery hurts.  If he pulls you over, say you lost your green card.

Run for your life!   Run!   I want Bud!   We want Bud’s brother!   You can have Bud’s sister.   There he is. a perfect specimen.   The best of the lot. There he is the man, stronger than an ox.   Fifty dollars, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred!   And tough!   Four hundred, five hundred, six! Master, master, stay in your chair!   He’s worth a thousand times more than that.   What about Bud’s boy?   Tearing, ruptured, outrage, humiliated, humbled, and whipped!   First he’s stripped!   Then he’s examined!   Look!   Check his teeth!   A half-pricer is his wife!   Their kids are an investment.

Buyer exhibits his might.   For now he has dominion over everyone.   A huge mirror serves the king’s vanity. his public gushes with admiration. Buyer wears royal purple.

And since we’re talking aimlessly about death and dying, who would deny me this opportunity to share a tear or two?   Jenny.  Holy God, may she rest in peace.  Oh, how I weep!  Of what age are we talking about?   She was to reach her maturity soon after she was born.   To be around a few months. and then gone like some old person. the Lord don’t ever give an explanation we can easily accept.  I think I’m doing pretty well, don’t you think?  I do!   Four-year-old baby Johnson was run over by a car.   I didn’t see her.   Don’t you waken her!

And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took another man’s daughter.   And the woman conceived and bore a son.   Slap, slap, his bonny bottom pap pap pappa. And when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she kept him to herself for three months.
Still there’s tomorrow.   Follow tomorrow down the lucky road.

And the world is divided unequally between masters and slaves.   Toiling and reciting with bent backs and heavy labor.   On the backs of men and women, we’ll build our empire.   Rare men!   Royal wench!   Sing sweet harp.

And around the courtyard he ran.

He ran and this was when I could only watch him run.   He had chewing gum, the mumps, and odd sort of things other kids didn’t.   A pony, a sword, grand aspirations.   Flew his wild geese and soldiered a bit.   And I’m not supposed to have a canary?   Sports was a common thing.   Shine.   Hear him, and I’m proud of him.   But I’m not his sole admirer.   Our beneficiaries are in a different league, as he plays in their house as if he were a king.   Here was when I was supposed to leave.   And they expected me to quietly pass away so that no one would know that he had a humbler beginning.
His feet are those of a huge man.   And there they were too.  It was dark.   As most of the town slept, the clan met, filled with nameless rage.   By courtesy of an informer, listening in as hard as we could, in a southern town, white avengers and their troubled follows, all twenty-five of them, all talking and angry and plotting.   Nearby two children play hopscotch.   To the honorable memory of disgrace.  There’s never been a Moses without a flaw.   It’s the pith of the matter.   Somebody perhaps has a hint that God is nearby.

Well how is Mr. Fry?  Mr. Fry, permit me to tell you, felt perfectly satisfied with himself.   With pay and perks and a new bride, who bore him a son.   He couldn’t have been happier.  But there was no Sabbath for nomads, and he was happily able to walk to the top of mountain.  XXXXXXXXX It is hopeless of course to explain how a bush burned of fire without being consumed.  Or a staff turned into a snake.  From then on, Mr. Fry would say he had seen and spoken to God and received his orders.  But he wasn’t due a vacation yet on the backside of the desert. And I truthfully declare that he didn’t want to hear what the Lord wanted out of him. He was now becoming fed up over the prospect of becoming someone he wasn’t, for after all he liked who he was.

Say something elliptical. I’m through.

Do you not must want to go somewhere in the present? Yes, it’s too bad! God says, at the earliest moment. Never mind the prickly heat. It doesn’t matter that it is a long walk. “I want you to go” is all that’s said. Yes, indeed, you have a wife and two fine sons you made between you and a superfine home. You can pretend you didn’t hear. You do not have to hear. You can go join Jonah in the whale.
Hot and cold, what are we to do? Commit no fouls.

Then lash me to my husband’s star! But who says I have to like it? To barter or be a partner? Him my first love, me his first pal. Take thee your man and for this reason you leave your mother and father, and the two of you become like glue. He says we have to go. Go? To throw sheets to the wind or tie our trunks onto the roof of the car. At no time did I agree to be dragged across the country. He says he’s called to do something. Make sure the car is sure footed, and let’s hope we see something as grand as the Grand Canyon.

I had no choice but to fall in line. I had nowhere to hide. I didn’t have an excuse. You say your car won’t make it. Okay, the car won’t make it. And I know what happens when we run out of water and gas, and it’s a hundred and ten in the shade. Don’t you understand that we’re out of water and gas, and it’s a hundred and ten in the shade, and I forgot my bathing suit. Sleep, that’s the best way to get through this…a loaded car, out of gas…water and gas…sing…

Should I dare open my mouth? Perhaps I’ll stutter. I’ll mangle my words. Perhaps I’ll say something dumb, or my words won’t match my thoughts. Take my worth from it. Lord, I can’t. Now there’s my brother. Look at him. Abracadabra. Listen to how smooth the words come out. He’ll make a great preacher. A Sunday king.

This is as human a story as has ever appeared in any newspaper. Not on the front page. It wouldn’t make headlines, unless it can be turned into something very tragic. We also know it from what we have read in Newsweek. Esra, the cat, overheard the foremen get the order from management that the workers from now on wouldn’t be given straw to make brick, as before, but will have to go and gather straw for themselves. We’re told we’re lazy. We’ve fought for this country. Now this! We can’t smile, because there is no more straw. Yet they say production has to continue at the same pace. The same as before without let up. More bricks, no straw, more bricks, no breaks!

I am a worker, a mason, and anxious to please. I have to please, or else they’d give me the boot. You can bet on it. So I eat sand, but who am I to complain? Can’t afford to complain ‘cause I’ve got a living to make. I am also an immigrant, to some, an alien, who ran, walked, stumbled, scratched to get where I am. I brought my wife with two children a boy a girl and me. But it’s gotten so that I can’t breathe without the foreman writing me up. There is getting to be too many leaks in the thatch. And it need not be lost sight of that we have certain God-given rights, concerning life, liberty, and pursuit of laziness. While the bosses pick their teeth.

Dear Lord, do you expect us to simply say so be it? O the petty rogue! We have mouths to feed. Don’t give us a fork to eat gravy. Give us the tools to be productive.

To some hasty-waste komandos from Police Regiment 11, operating under the aegis of the HSSPF Russia-South, part of the regiment that marched through Belorussia with great destructiveness, the rude words “Ju-da verr-rrecke! Juda verr-rrecke” seemed very funny. I’ve heard the gnashing of teeth. I’ve seen the millstones they have around their necks. So what are we going to do about it?

And, you, take that back to where you got it and go away. We’re in a church. Church people don’t talk that way or even think it. Oh, please! You’re something. Why don’t you get off your high horse, and stop acting like God. We’re all going to get out of here. We shall never forget. Great things were expected. It’s like the time the Pope came to town.

Bob throws his staff down. The old snake trick. We never expected him to repeat it.
With all of the science of today, you’d expect him to come up with something better. Like hot and cold water and electricity. And a bolt in a grinder. After bottled drinking water, we expected something grander. Well, he’s rounding up his family. Credit progress. Credit tomorrow.

Are you still expecting a miracle? No, something lean for lunch. And all of the fish that was in the river died; and the water stank. The magician only can conjure up are modern-day plagues. What’s happening to the frogs may happen to humans next year. Our scientific sense should tell use something, when frogs multiply and come into our houses and into our bedrooms and into our beds, and into the houses of our servants and our relatives, and when they come into our ovens and pollute our food, what will mean?

The people try to contemplate what God will do next. The people like to think that they are in charge, until lightening strikes.

We can recall how we toured the coast to the sound of music. We had the top down and were driving about hoping to steal a little fresh air. A perfect day, but, on the face of it, we shouldn’t have expected so much. The perfect spot. We pulled over. Anyhow, somehow and somewhere, we found the perfect spot for a picnic. Me and my girl. And let us bring out the fresh bread and a hunk of cheese and eventually start thinking that life couldn’t be better when out of nowhere came a swarm of flies.

Duly fatigued they weep laughing, they smile hating, they wait impatiently. I bet they used their best cosmetics off their vanity table, but can’t cover it up. What’s that! A zit!  No, no, it’s a boil. That’s what? Boils! Smiling hating, crying. Boils! To adore oneself in the mirror and find one’s face covered with boils. Find the shades and weep.

Draw the shades! We’re sorry. Ever so sorry. We really are.

Chimed N-B-C. 1960. The theme songs for the “Bugs Bunny Show/Bugs Bunny,” “Road Runner Hour,” “Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show,” “Search for Tomorrow,” and “Scooby-Doo.” How awful! Such misfortune. Hoof and mouth disease. All the horses and asses and camels and oxen and sheep. Recoil. Television brought it home. Our eyes demanded that we pay attention. And carcass bonfires blazed everywhere. When they set fire then so many hopes gone. Gone. All gone. Disaster was a common thing. Then hail, such as has not been seen before, and we requested an explanation. A time to weep because hail destroyed everything. It looked like a battlefield. Only in Goshen was there no hail. Pity the cattle. Would you care to know the cost of the loss of barley, rye, and wheat? And the grasshoppers. How much more? Like a great mower, they devoured everything. Then suddenly we didn’t have any electricity and we were caught in the dark. Tap, tap! Pardonner!

This time, it was the firstborn. Around the midnight, post haste. No time to waste. Hum Captain of Israel’s Host. And how are you? Look at all the flinching. Dig deep or forget it! Up the ante. A very different approach. For very different results. Let the party begin. Hold on tight. And since we are talking aimlessly about death and dying, who would deny me this opportunity to share a tear or two? Jenny. Holy God, may she rest in peace. Delays are dangerous. Borrow money from your neighbor. None of that paper stuff. Ask for jewels, silver, and gold. In control! Control freak!

Moreover the man Bob was very great in the land and had his sights on becoming president. And they began to salute him. A big to-do. THE MAN OF THE YEAR. The man, in white shirt, perfect tie, is how he is. Give him an inch and he’ll take it all. Retrace his rise back to when he first came to town. This is perfect. There’s faux-this and faux that.

Suggested routes to success. What to wear. How to beat the heat. He drives a Jeep—that is, unless he’s driving his McLaren, Acura NSX or Bentley turbo convertible. Silicon Heaven! His public thinks they know him. The amusing part is that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest away. He has been working his magic. We are all awed.

O, dear me! O, dear me now! Jenny. Holy God, may she rest in peace.

Now, then, take this in! Allow me to guide you. It wasn’t as if they weren’t warned. Oh, my. I need a hug. Stale words won’t do any good. As often as you come, you’re welcome at our table. Come, have dinner with us. Let’s eat. This lamb is tender, roasted perfectly over a fire. Pass the bread. Flat and unleavened, like a tortilla. And chase it down with water and bitter herbs. Eat! And if you can’t eat it all, burn what is left over. And make sure you’re dressed, with your shoes on and car running. Eat! Hurry! Midnight. Cry not yet.

At the beginning of October, in the year of the incarnation of the Son of God 1347, twelve Genoese galleys were fleeing from the vengeance which our Lord was taking on account of their nefarious deeds and entered the harbour of Messina. In their bones they bore so virulent a disease that anyone who only spoke to them was seized by a mortal illness. Well, after we got the bad news, my son was terribly frightened of being alone.
The infection spread to everyone who had intercourse with the diseased. Those infected felt themselves penetrated by a pain throughout their whole bodies and, so to say, undermined. Morphine didn’t help. Then there developed in their thighs or on their upper arms a boil. This infected the whole body and penetrated it so far that the patient violently vomited blood. This vomiting of blood continued without intermission for three days, there being no means of healing it, and then the patient expired. Where were his friends? And he’d alienated the medical staff, but underneath he was a wonderfully sensitive person with deep integrity, a person who wanted to find inner peace. Soon men hated each other so much that, if the disease attacked a son, his father would not tend him. All he wanted was to die with dignity and without fear. I couldn’t tell him how. O but you must, you must really! It’s midnight. Hustle along, we’re out of time.

Dear Mr. President. It is my Desire to be free and to go to see my people. My mistress won’t let me. Please let me know if we are free and what I can do. I had a little truble in giting away, But as the lord led the Children of Isrel to the land of Canon, so he led me to a land whare freedom will rain in spite of earth and hell. Sir: I got your letter and be reassured we haven’t forgotten you.

Give my love to Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this.

And where in thunder did they go? You’ll have to draw me a map. My sense of direction isn’t very good.

One politician looking for votes courts the crowd. An orator sees him and yells, “Good for you, Mr. Nixon!” People dressed in their very best head for Bean Dinner Park. And it’s going be all of us old timers against the youngster facing off at the plate. Sack racing, as advertise. Hog calling, for something different and a greased pole for those who dare. Baseball, sack racing, hog calling and greasy pole climbing, all fun activities conducted in a religious atmosphere. Be moving along. So much to do. Can’t wait for the beauty contest. Marx once said, “no one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are egoists if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews.” Isn’t it great! We’re having such a wonderful time. Fly your balloons. Where is the cotton candy? All we wants is freedom as a possession. Third strike, and she’s out! Sure we haven’t got much. And sure anything we have is beside the point. To see the old buzzard whooping it up along side his old lady. You’re the prettiest woman I ever did see. And that’s how that man is going to make his mark. He’ll go far with his compliments.

Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under Randy's Poems

Randy Ford Author- POL POT


by Randy Ford

I was there when …

I don’t know whom to blame but old colonial powers and more recent super powers and in particular the United States. Why not France?  I do blame France.  How can I not blame France when France brought the West to my little country?  But then how can I blame France when France educated me?  Except France accepted defeat and went home. And now too many people have died not to blame someone.  Then there’s Pol Pot who claims he hasn’t killed anyone. It’s easy to blame Americans who won’t admit that their bombing had anything to do with it. It’s harder to blame Pol Pot who claims he hasn’t killed anyone.  And Pol Pot hasn’t been convicted of a crime.

Maybe I should keep my mouth shut. Excuses I could give are numerous.

I speak with authority.  I can speak with authority because I was there, there when … Now, we were known for our gentleness.  I try to be friendly and gentle.  I try to be friendly and gentle all the time.  By nature, I’m gentle.  We are gentle people.  We smile all the time.  By nature, we are friendly.   My good humor is so infectious and so constant that no one can guess that I have another side. Underneath there’s more than anyone would suspect.

I didn’t know much about Mao, so I didn’t understand what it meant when friends started talking about a communist system purer than Maoism. I was young.  Perhaps I was naïve, naïve and young when I started talking about a communist system purer than Maoism.  I could use it as an excuse. I could use it as an excuse: to think there is a communist system purer than Maoism.  I didn’t know much about Maoism and hadn’t seen firsthand Nixon’s decision to bomb our country.  I despised Nixon and didn’t know it.  I lived in paradise and didn’t know it either.

I was an excellent student. I always came across as knowledgeable and intelligent, and I spoke passable English (better French).  I could pass for French.  I am a connoisseur of anything French: French food, French wine, French art, French drama, French music, French words, French words like connoisseur.  This was not as helpful as one might think because I could’ve been singled out as an intellectual, and if I were smart I would’ve stayed in Paris.  But I felt I had to cleanse my country of imperialism.  I felt I owed it to my country to cleans my country of Western thought.  I felt I owed it to my country to fight for my country’s independence.  Fight for my country’s independence, and what is more noble than fight for one’s country’s independence.

I’m not very tall (five feet three and a half, to five feet four and a few inches), slender but wiry, and very muscular. Time I lived in France, I lived in Paris and Leon. I love my country, but I despised what Nixon did to it. I despised what the United States did to it.  I hated bombing of my country. I hated Nixon.  I hated the United States.  I’ve seen too much, I guess. I told myself, however unconvincingly, that it’s better to keep my mouth shut and try not to show any feelings. I tried.  And tried.

I tried to keep a safe distance from people. I lived alone and didn’t get close to anyone … couldn’t trust anyone … couldn’t afford it … couldn’t afford getting close to anyone … couldn’t trust anyone.   I changed my name several times. I exchanged my clothing … I was among thousands who wrapped white handkerchiefs around their arms, emblems of surrender, and welcomed communist into our capital. Clearly I intended to survive.

We were called New People. And who were we? New People?  As I said I grew up in our capital. A face without a name, an urban dweller among urban dwellers, I had to separate myself from hoards.  I didn’t want to starve.  I knew I wouldn’t survive as a rural laborer.  What choice did I have?  I wanted to survive. I wanted to remain an urban dweller.  I had to remain an urban dweller.  I had to make myself useful as an urban dweller, or else I would be forced to live in the countryside and work as a peasant. I knew I wouldn’t survive as a peasant.  I am an urban dweller.  Life reduced to basics: if one worked, one ate … if one worked, one lived (no, no, not necessarily}.  I knew I wouldn’t survive working in the countryside, and I wanted to survive.  And whom could we trust if we couldn’t bank on the person walking or working next to us? So I kept my head down, as I worked for a few days with a hoe. A few days instead of a few months or a few years. If I held my head up I was afraid I’d get it chopped off. I’ve been accused of being an opportunist. Naturally I disagree. I simply wanted to live and didn’t think I would survive out there, and more than anything else I wanted to survive.

I’m still not sure about Angkar.  I’m not sure who Angkar was?  And I’m not sure that I want to know more than I know. It was not healthy to know too much.  It is not healthy to know too much.  With Angkar around you could never be sure who your friends were. Never sure … never sure.  And I’ll never say if I joined, or why I joined if I joined, or try to explain. Dealing with phenomena such as Angkar, one sees Angkar everywhere. I never had to watch myself so much.  I was never sure … never sure.  I was always on my toes.  I always followed orders.  I always had eyes in the back of my head.  I was an urban dweller.  I knew I wouldn’t survive as rural laborer.  I wanted to survive.

I won’t admit to anything.  No, I was not part of Angkar.  All I can say is that Angkar kept a record of everything. Check records.  Would you believe I had no choice?  I had to follow orders.  I was only following orders.

I want to study in America, want to start a new life over there. I could change my name again.  I know how to change my name.  Now I’m twenty-six, with a tic in my right eye (a good disguise I hope), and I haven’t accepted my good fortune yet. I’m alive. I survived.  That’s something. I doubt that I could’ve lived very long in the mountains because I’m city boy. Even here in Thailand I don’t feel safe. There are so many people who would despise me if they knew … if I were recognized. Thankfully no one noticed when I slipped away.  No one recognized me when I crossed our border … has recognized me here.   It’s terrible to be a refugee. I know what I face because I know what I did. We are a small country with a long memory, which says it all. But thankfully I’m the last person they would suspect. Here I’m everyone’s best friend.  Here I am refugee … a refugee among many refugees … one refugee among too many refugees … a smiling, bowing man without a face.

Victory had its day, a new day: so new that nothing of the old survived. A new age emerged! I’ve heard people say “Communists are ruthless.” How does that sound in Vietnamese? It meant losing our generally even temper. But they lied about us and said that we shot thousands of people. According to them, killings continued even after the order to stop was given.  Remember Pol Pot says he didn’t kill anyone.

Victory! It was perfectly magnificent, gentlemen, to see our people come together, working together.  We were finally an independent country.  Our people came together, working day and night to reconstruct our country. They say Kampuchea looked like an immense anthill. Kampuchea, an anthill?  Who says? Perhaps it’s the only case on record when a total population of a country was mustered for one purpose. Our motto was, according to Pol Pot, “When we have rice, we have everything.” But there was a problem: city people didn’t know how to farm, didn’t know what a cow was, and didn’t know what harvesting was. Workers in fields …. Cambodians frozen on film…. a reminder of the penalty of weakness.  Frozen on film used as propaganda … used for Western propaganda.

Accusing us of genocide is a spurious attack. Rarely had an experiment go so horribly wrong. But most people died from wind sickness. Wind spirits … evil spirits entering the body and stealing life away. I wish I could say that it wasn’t human caused.  By and large, it wasn’t human caused.  Wind spirits … an evil wind.

So many died that we couldn’t bury them all. I was there and saw it firsthand … down to bodies half-buried in fields, and yet I can’t recall where I was then.  I can’t remember.  I can’t remember.  I repeat, I can’t remember.  I’m lucky that I can’t remember.   I was lucky to have escaped death myself. I was lost and lost all contact with my family and rightly assumed that I’d never see them again. It would have raised an unacceptable level of suspicion had I looked for them.  Remember, I wanted to survive.

I just heard that Americans had abandoned Saigon and that they were about to do the same thing to Phnom Penh. And I lived in Phnon Penh and couldn’t get out. Of course there were a lot of Peugeots in Phnom Penh. Most taxi drivers drove them, but I didn’t think I could get very far in a taxi. I didn’t know what to do. I however knew when to be prudent … knew when to obey orders.  I always obeyed orders. Let me repeat, I always obey orders.  I was raised to obey orders.  I also knew clichés of communist and knew that in order to stay alive I’d have to repeat them verbatim. Often I’ve had to confess to lies. My own treachery still stuns me.  This was when I first heard of purifying communism.

I’ve often wondered why it went so terribly wrong. Maybe it was because Pol Pot wasn’t an intellectual. There remained very few intellectuals: a large percentage were killed at Tuol Sleng, a former high school. I unfortunately became familiar with Tuol Sleng, very familiar with Tuol Sleng … halls and different floors of the buildings … different kinds of rooms and how important prisoners were kept in larger cells. I knew the school before it became a prison. And would recognize the principal if I saw him.  I never went to Tuol Sleng before I was drafted.  I wouldn’t have gone to Tuol Sleng voluntarily.

I was relatively happy with the Prince … Prince Sihanouk … but had I not renounced him it would’ve been as if I were slitting my own throat. Truth should’ve shown how a contest between the devil and God was steadily and fervently advanced. And yet I must’ve loved him once. I loved Prince Sihanouk once.  This was one thing I had to live with. Add to my five-foot-three-and-a-inch frame, most of which my smile neutralizes, a long-handled ax. A simple tool for cutting down trees became a bloody instrument of death. Forget revisionists: allow the dead speak. There is confusion over who guilty are.

Pol Pot was lavishly welcomed in Beijing. Of course it was he … why wouldn’t he be welcomed? Vengeance! What could they say? Tell him to go home. They were polite, you see. They didn’t have to worry about him because he would go home and create a communist utopia, expressly celebrated during Day of Hatred … again purified communism.  To tell the truth Pol Pot was a little too dogmatic for them. Believe me he had his own plans. I hope you don’t think that we’re all devils.  I never went to Beijing.

I didn’t know anything was wrong. I hadn’t seen it yet. The role of Vietnamese elements, always Vietnamese element and Lao … Prince Sihanouk accused Vietnamese and Lao communists of inspiring rebels. It’s funny to think that it was Vietnamese … better known as Viet Cong … when there were many, many groups involved. Then all of a sudden our prince picked on the Khmer Rouge, when he couldn’t afford to do it. It was a funny position to take while Americans were bombing our villages.  I didn’t know much about America bombing our villages then.

I suspect Pol Pot knew what he was doing. He avoided action that would alienate anyone and moved into every corner of the country while waiting for Americans to pull out.  And Prince Sihanouk picked on the Khmer Rouge when he could’ve picked on any number of other groups.

I liked Prince Norodom Sihanouk because he was a likable but volatile fellow. I was afraid of communists.  I was not a communist.  I have never been a communist.  To this day I think the prince offered us our best chance for peace. For hadn’t he, throughout the 1950s and the ’60s, preserved our neutrality? I wonder what would’ve happened had his old friend, Lon Nol, hadn’t overthrown him.

One night, many years ago, I was standing in front of the Cine’ Lux theater and saw our prince, with his security in place. He got out his black Cadillac convertible. It had been raining, and I had a hard time finding a pedicab. (By the way, for what it’s worth, walking to the theater would’ve been quicker.) Needless to say, a great number of people attended the premiere, the premiere of our prince’s movie.

Amid this elite group we all recognized our prince. He looked conspicuous in a shabby suit (shabby suits were in fashion then), purchased in those days in Hong Kong. What an honor it was to see our prince and first screening of APSARA, which he wrote, produced, and directed. It was a serious effort (he was serious about it), in which he promoted national solidarity. We all rushed out and bought tickets.  As soon as we heard about it, we rushed and bought tickets.

The movie was a fairy tale, about a Cambodia free of dirt, poverty, and disease where the sun shone constantly.  The characters drove here and there in fancy automobiles. I however felt sorry afterwards that I had gone to see it.  It took me away from my studies and didn’t relate to my life.  And I didn’t see my country as a fairy tale.  I couldn’t ignore dirt, poverty, and disease.

Some days later a pedicab driver brought me up to the theater where the movie was still showing, and I admitted that I saw it. Of course I wanted to know what he thought of it. “Well, sir,” said he, “it was swell!”

Now did anyone believe our prince? How could anyone that rich understand the masses? But he was undoubtedly still popular. This good prince, I say, was a dreamer but had the worst taste. He depicted the royal family (his family) as living in the fast lane when life for most of us was a disaster (he lived in the fast lane). I believed even then, while naively trusting General Lon Nol, that our prince would somehow survive his downfall.

But where did our prince go? There are many rumors flying around.  Is he still in the capital?  Is he still holdup in his palace? Since retiring as head of state did he remained in the capital? Is he still holdup in his palace?  Pol Pot says that American imperialists and their lackeys continue to hope that our prince and his lackeys will continue to have a great deal of influence. But our prince hasn’t been able to raise his flag.

Lon Nol! Traitor! Enlighten me, gentlemen … tell me why such traitors shouldn’t be shot! I hated Lon Nol because he overthrew our prince, but compared to his American handlers, Lon Nol had a degree of merit. But he, along with the CIA, frequently engaged in assassinations. More importantly coups forced Sihanouk to change his approach. He no longer relied on bourgeoisie, intellectuals, and rich farmers. At the same time hundreds of his supporters were arrested and killed.

To survive I had to perfect a callous response to horrors.

Let’s refer, for a moment, to surrender of Phnom Penh. How like firecrackers small arms fire sounded. Weren’t people celebrating the Cambodian New Year and firing any weapon they had? Then as Lon Nol left for the United States, a hundred battalions took our capital (only a hundred battalions … no more) and evacuation started.

What startled me, however, was that our conquerors started routing people out their homes. And for most part there was no resistance … no resistance.  Let me repeat, no resistance.

Carrying their belongings, people ran this way and that. Like scared chickens, they ran this way and that paying little attention that the order to leave was given as an ultimatum. As they joined an exodus most people readily dispensed with trappings of the West.  Our society was being cleanse of trappings of the West … cleanse of trappings of imperialism, and purification of communism began.

Execution was a form of political expediency. It was impossible to take control without it. Other means of ruling were less effective.  People who refused to leave were shot … were shot on the spot.

They never said kill but used the general word scatter. Smash meant kill. Killed Hou Yuon, who stupidly took a stand against the Party, killed by a bodyguard. Killed Koy Thuon because Angkar no longer trusted him. Killed Chakrey and Chakrey’s wife, Moeung Heng, who confessed she belonged to an espionage network directed by Vietnamese, CIA, and Soviets. That didn’t happen until May the next year. Did it really happen? Chakrey’s coups attempt failed. No government would’ve been tolerant. Chakrey would be a traitor in anyone’s books.  Killed Chhouk and then Mao Zedong died. Now Mao was not murdered. As for the others, our leadership gave orders, “kill Lon Nol’s soldiers, kill monks, and scatter Vietnamese!”  I always followed orders.

Planned assassination of our prince was doubted by many. Yes, his murder was planned.  I would’ve considered his murder a sacrilege because he was still our prince. He deserved our respect. He deserves our respect.  We have a place in our hearts for him.

But Pol Pot wouldn’t have killed a chicken (remember Pol Pot claims he didn’t kill anyone). Our leader was a self-effacing, charming gentleman. Never brash or uncultured, as we were, but a perfect gentleman. Pol Pot was a perfect gentleman.  All he wanted to do was to gain recognition for Kampuchea.  All he wanted to do was cleanse Kampuchea of Western thought.  All he wanted to do was cleanse Kampuchea of Imperialism and purify communism.

I entered Tuol Sleng on the 2nd of February 1977. I was little more than twenty-two years old then. This in itself wasn’t unusual. I admit that being young had its advantages in the Democratic Kampuchea. It had been the youth of this country that has sustained it and brought about our victory. From the beginning, we couldn’t count on workers to fuel a revolution, something that disappointed us all. Basically, we could only count on peasants. Peasants had the most potential. We’d say, “Don’t you think we should finish off such and such landlord?”

There are wild stories afloat about Tuol Sleng. We never ate livers of people we killed. We weren’t monsters.  We aren’t monsters. None of the lies are based on proof. Hear the truth!

Exodus took place without police brutality. There wasn’t much resistance. Justification for evacuation was clear, and it was easy. It was the best way to cleanse the city of our enemies. Filled with corruption, Phnom Penh was unhealthy. People knew they were better off in the countryside. But who were we to tell them? Surely we’re not as portrayed. I came from teaching at the Faculty of Law and Economics Sciences (1960-1964). We were forced into action. We’re still under attack.

Before taking over Tuol Sleng, Deuch distinguished himself as a schoolteacher. Even back then, he thought all Cambodians with different viewpoints than his were traitors and liars. Now he knew all techniques of his trade, knew how to maximize terror. That was Deuch, who, as we’re apt to say, is one of the greatest interrogators of our time. But at Tuol Sleng, there was little need for torture, and we required confessions from everyone. More often than not, it was simply a matter of timing.

Consult our archives. Out of the 242 important cadres, who were executed there the few months I was there, not more than a few were tortured?  Only a handful were.  Consult our archives.  I am in there.

Bou Phuthang, you may be happy to hear, was assassinated.  Man who assassinated him is well known: alias Vorn. According to French intelligence, Phuthang drew Vorn into a deadly game of insulting someone by forcing a rival to defend himself. So Vorn was only defending his honor. French hushed it up. Since Hun Penn was more important than Phuthang, one could predict that he would also be assassinated. However, it never happened. I think that he felt embarrassed that he had to live with security.  I think he felt embarrassed he wasn’t assassinated.   He died in Phnom Penh, and letters from him existed. They described a personal relationship with Prince Sihanouk.  These letters were destroyed.

A late old colonial hand, Denis Giteau, everyday grew more afraid of being assassinated. He believed that he had as much a right to Cambodia as any native.  Giteau was a Frenchman, not a Cambodian.  But most natives agreed that that sort of thinking had to stop.

A case in point, I think, can be found in what happened to Lon Nol. Lon Nol seized power and then had a stroke, had a stroke and wasn’t assassination    As this became known, there were those in and out of government who thought he had to go. But he, however, remained in office for four more years. Nixon liked him, because Lon Nol did what he was told.

Keo Yun’s execution took place as early as January 1975. We had to do something. He came from Brother Number One’s home province of Kompong Thom, where he knew Deuch from Balaing College. It didn’t matter that they were old friends. With all of Phnom Penh deserted, Keo Yun welcomed our victory but to his surprise found himself arrested. Rather than our enemy, he considered himself a friend. To best of my memory, Yun was arrested on April 18. Our suspicions naturally settled on people such as Keo Yun, a capitalist who refused to join the revolution. Clearly, Keo Yun chose the wrong side. Our enemies only got what they deserved. I knew all about Keo Yun. I’ll not take responsibility for his execution, even though I pulled the trigger.

“That,” Deuch said, “is how we’ll begin our second revolution. We’ll require an oath of allegiance from all cadres.” At the time of Keo Yun’s execution, I worked for Deuch.

Reporting directly to Son Sen, Deuch was given responsibility for bringing all traitors around.

Mat Ly, a young student, is fortunate to have been released after interrogation. This remarkable event shows how Deuch had a heart. While I eulogize Deuch, let us not overlook many other people.  Many other people approved of Deuch.   Such people as Thea, or Meang, or Mat, or Hom, all under thirty. Or Kan, Thea, and Mat, all of whom carried guns. Thea, a twenty-four-year-old, was Pol Pot’s personal bodyguard and entered Phnom Penh with him. It saddens me that some of these people turned out to be less than what they seemed. Piss on these dealers of subterfuge! Shouldn’t they have been brought in line? They were no better than obvious traitors were.

While there are those who’ll always complain about our cruelty, only those who’ve fulfill real tasks are in a position to agree or disagree with us. Zhou Enlai noted extraordinary leaps people will make when influenced by fear.  Case of Thea is a striking example: he knew too much about Angkor, much more than anyone else. Remember I shot him.

After what happened to Thea, I realized no one was safe. He told me that he was tired of living in fear and planned to flee Cambodia. He claimed that he wanted to work for restoration of Prince Sihanouk. Actually, he planned a coup.  Thea was a traitor.   Knowing me as a brother from the same province, he freely confessed to me.

Thea was literate. After the country stabilized he would’ve been useful to the Democratic Revolution. He had mastered social deportment, military tactics, and politics. In spite of all this, he had to be eliminated.  Killing him was regrettably necessary.

But not all those purged were killed. I hoped when my time came I would simply be suspended or expelled from the party. I hoped my personal loyalty to Deuch would be my salvation. Thea bounced back with surprising stamina. He survived my interrogation. He held his head up, in spite of being deprived of sleep. His defiance was a reaction to torture. It had no meaning. It had no meaning.  We knew that he couldn’t last much longer. At this stage, I carried out the torture myself, and he started to confess. I hit him repeatedly in the head. I wanted to keep him off balance.

During next round, Thea begged me to forgive him and spare his life. Then I whispered something into his ear that sent him through the ceiling. It was my private opinion about what would happen to his wife and his children. From then on, I had my way. And when it came time to shoot him, he lay in a ball on the floor.

I told him, “you’re guilty of treason.  You are a coward.” He confessed to me without passion. To keep worms out we had to patch holes in our organization.

Pol Pot said, “to achieve self-reliance and independence, it is essential to wipe the slate clean. It’s unfortunate that the ax had to fall on some of our best people” (to which we might add old friends and young intellectuals). Brother Number One regretted each death.

During a speech before a national congress of the Party, Pol Pot outlined a new four-year plan for opposing the Vietnamese. Only we didn’t have four years left. By that time, much of what Pol Pot said was simply wishful thinking. But between his speech and his everyday manner, he hooked us.

Vietnamese surrounded the city and were moving very fast. Defeat had never been pretty. Shades of defeat were not any different. You may blame this or that, and say another thing publicly. Well, would you believe Prince Sihanouk left on the last plane out the capital? We arranged it for him. At the same time, we heard that Pol Pot and his aides had fled to Thailand. Both events generated a great internal struggle. My prospects indeed seemed grim.

On the afternoon of 6 January 1979, workers were ordered to assemble at Phom Penh railway station, ordered to assemble for immediate evacuation. Perhaps evacuation was not an accurate description of chaos that followed. Unless you were in a comatose state, you couldn’t help but see how desperate people were. Emptying the city to prevent a Vietnamese victory was how we described it. We never acknowledged defeat, but we knew when to run.

On January 7, 1979, we were surprised by Vietnamese troops. There was only enough time to slip through the Vietnamese lines on a motorcycle. Across northern Cambodia toward the Thai border raced our enemy’s tanks but just ahead of them I rode into a most superb sunset. From Phnom Penh, I headed for Mt. Aural in the west. I hoped from there to somehow reach our border.

Vulgar Vietnamese were turning our people into fish paste. They buried peasants up to their necks or set them on fire. It was incomprehensible. When you’ve talked yourself out, you must come back to that. Incomprehensible!

I changed into a peasant’s uniform and thought blue scarves would make it easier for me to blend in. Thousands of people jammed roadways.  I wanted to blend in.  I disguised myself to escape vengeance. I traveled mostly in the daytime and slept in jungle at night. On reaching the border area, I looked for comrades and regretted that I couldn’t be open about it.

I heard of Pol Pot’s escape and heard that he was in Thailand. This news depressed me. My destiny was determined for me. I wanted nothing to do with him. I knew the mess I was in and didn’t want to see him.

Having escaped certain death, I entered a situation equally dangerous. To stay alive, I drank my own urine. I must here mention starvation. Many people arrived at camps with swollen bellies.  They grew to expect it.  We grew to expect it.

There were no more fields of rice, just abandoned fields of cactus. Nothing equaled my despair, as I looked for former comrades. I don’t know why I continued to walk in boiling sun, why with a swollen belly I continued to walk through fields of death, why I continued to walk through hell.  I became emaciated. I don’t know why I was eager to find a familiar face. I also dreaded it. I trembled all the time.

Let me go back ten or eleven days to when my motorcycle ran out of gas. Instead of sticking with crowds then, I plunged into jungle. I soon lost my way and wandered around for days. I even suffered through pain and delirium from a snakebite.

Exhausted, weak and filled with despair, I found myself strengthened by adversity. There also was no sign of the supreme Angkor.  Fortunately, I knew enough to walk toward a setting sun.

Traveling at night required great concentration. I no more descended a hill than I had to climb one again. Stumbling along, I headed back to a road without thinking that it could lead me to danger. I thought of myself as a wild animal. Such a delusion would’ve made my old friends howl. I said to myself that with eyes of an owl and teeth of a tiger, I wouldn’t need to worry.

Invasion of Vietnamese, together with talk of genocide, greatly concerned me. But when a culture succumbs, a nation is dissolved. As a symptom, I’d be the first to admit that I used to find sexual exploits of our prince exciting. I also used to be potent. As our prince took his various consorts to bed, fun for us all began. In those days, we all loved to talk about le sport! And the frenzy of our passions approached intensity of our orgasms. “C’arrive! It’s happening,” we’d say.

The next thing we knew bombs started falling.

Gentlemen, we all knew that killing had precedent elsewhere.

My next stay was at a dangerous place called Nong Chan. It was worse place I’ve ever been. When asked, “where do you come from, Comrade” for a good reason I never mentioned Tuol Sleng. If pressed, I’d say, “Comrades, we know Tuol Sleng was invented. Sensationalism sells newspapers! I’m impatient with sensationalist. Our Chinese friends wished us a speedy revolution, as well as everything else connected with our independence.  When pressed, I always say I’m from Nong Chan.  No one questions when I say from Nong Chan.

Our laws were exact. Our laws didn’t take into account friendships. Given circumstances, contact of this nature was extremely dangerous. I’ve always known when to hide my identity.

I’ve always stood by my story, though ghosts have contradicted me. Whenever something gets too painful, I take long walks. I go into jungle and get into such a state that it would be dangerous to bother me. Some days I isolated myself entirely.

Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under short story

Randy Ford Author- ON THE HOME FRONT


by Randy Ford

It was middle of the night, and she couldn’t sleep … couldn’t sleep … couldn’t sleep.   She remembered boys on two trains and how they leaned out their windows and exchanged wine bottles. Toasts were also exchanged, and toasts were exchange until their trains pulled out, while not one knew what they were heading into.

But now alone, pushed, pushed and pushed to the breaking point, she asked herself, “Is he alive, still?” For all she knew she could be a widow, and with all her heart she hoped Fritz could still hear an enemy’s reveille. If he could, it meant that he could come home, and now she saw her husband and lover charging Calvary Hill, tipsily trilling the “Hooch Habsburg-Marsch.” Felt better? No. She still couldn’t sleep and wanted to cry … cry … many more tears … but they wouldn’t come.

Wars, as you know, are never fun, never, never fun.  Question is does prayer work? Prrwht! So she rarely prayed, but now she wanted to know if prayer works. So she prayed, prayed with all her heart.

Most nights she didn’t bother with sleep … how to fall asleep before exhausting herself was a mystery to her. For this woman though, it was not lack of sleep that mattered, but it was nightmares that bothered her.  More than anything it was nightmares.  Yells of assault, screams of agony, wrath, pain, dying and killing, all these things came too close to home.
Life didn’t suit her.  This life didn’t suit her. There was no one to cheer her up.  She had no one.   She had to do it for herself, and she didn’t know why, for instance, but when she was with other people she felt sadder. It took courage to go out, courage to live, while courage conquered death and death ended misery.  Excursions ended not with her seeking friends, but with wandering streets of Wien. Whenever she went out she rarely had a destination and usually ended up in a place where they wouldn’t recognize her.

“Why, Frau Hertzel, why?” she asked herself. “Why is it hard these days to carry on like we did before this war? And why can’t you do something that’s useful? Why can’t you contribute to the war effort? War! I thought you wouldn’t mind war so much. I just want to know what you can do, that’s all.”

“See here, we thought this war wouldn’t amount to much. Croatia isn’t far away, and with few causalities war would be over in the matter of weeks. Then if we must fight, fight we shall. War business is all very well, but it shouldn’t disrupt everything, you know. Don’t forget why we’re fighting is due to assassination of a couple. War! It takes courage on all fronts to fight a war. Courage! Austrian courage? Is it different from French courage? There’s no way of knowing for sure.  Austrian courage, there is no way of knowing if it exists.”

At first they blindly went along with war. At first she tried to behave like other women she knew; she really tried, carrying on best she could, taking one day at a time. But it didn’t work for her.

It all seemed pointless. Without Fritz it seemed that way. She could’ve been spending her time helping in some way. There was so much to do.

It wasn’t long before she realized that war would drag on.  Topic of conversation then became who would come home. And out of those who came out alive how many would’ve lost an eye or a limb … would’ve lost an eye, a limb, or his mind?

And for women and children who were left behind it was especially hard, and while some of them learned how to survive some of them didn’t. As long months turned into years, causalities on the home front mounted.

It helped not to think.  It helped not to think too much.  It was best not to think.  Also drink helped but often gave no pleasure.

Why expect more from women than men? Remain strong first, then set an example by preserving home. Be best she could be. Then every time she was called upon, she was ready to help and did her best to keep her morale up.

Maybe she should stay at home. She couldn’t be careful enough. She tried to stay home, and many times she failed. She had to burst out, after she felt so depressed that she didn’t want to leave her flat.

The key, she thought, rushing out the door, must be fresh air and companionship …to forget war through companionship.

Avoiding old haunts … cafes she once knew … she went looking for something she once had. It took tremendous courage to go alone, but it got easier over time. It got easier. She overcame inhibitions. A few drinks helped. Beauty help.  She knew how to use her looks.  She knew how to flirt.

But one or two drinks weren’t enough.  Moment she stopped drinking, her mind cleared but she never saw that she was making mistakes. Indiscretion aside, she never intended to hurt anyone.

When he approached her, he seemed lonely too. He wanted to talk.  She wanted company.  She craved company.  But what was there to talk about? Was there anything wrong with talking to him? He asked her name. She answered him. She said just enough to keep a conversation going, and that was as far as it went.

As she reconstructed their conversation, a hollow voice sounded within her brain. There was no way around it. She had become a vamp, a sexy vamp, a silly, sexy vamp. She hadn’t come to a conclusion that she was a whore yet. If it were meant for her to realize it, she had to wait. And she had brains, but she wasn’t thinking. If she were thinking, she would not have gotten into a mess that she got into. She felt foolish and tried to get over it.  It wasn’t clear if she got over it.

A voice in her brain faded, and she went out again. The place was dark and cozy, and by then she decided to act like a vamp. It made him happy, and it gave her an excuse.

“But I’m married,” she thought. “But do I care?  It doesn’t matter to him, so it shouldn’t matter to me. I’m a vamp like every other vamp, and men like vamps.” So she didn’t think and didn’t have to think before she started flirting.

She felt better after her decision.  There were no ties afterwards. There were no strings.  War made it acceptable somehow. Spending time with him meant no more than talking to a stranger on a tram … except they did more than talk.

Careful! But she didn’t pay attention to a hollow voice in the back of her brain. Horrible!

She was lonely and was prepared to say “yes.” Then she wasn’t alert enough to say “no.” Weight of her feelings ignored, it was clear that they went too far. And if it weren’t bold and risky, what was the point?

Whore! Whores were plentiful on Krugerstrasse. If you weren’t meant to be a whore, why would you allow him to slide his hand between your blouse and your skirt? Where were your brains? She had a girlish air about her. But there in the dark, as they passed Kremsmunsterhof, it felt like the end of the world, so her pain, her loss needed an antidote.

Feeling lousy.  Feeling lonely.  Talk unnecessary.

That was an answer. Dive in headfirst. All she needed was a little tenderness. Then if indeed the world was about to end, what the hell!

They spent a few hours in bed looking for ways to get close, and without thinking of consequences … to hell with consequences, he bought a little time before he’d face death again.

“When were you last in Salzburg?”

“Hotel Osterreichischer Hof in der Halle. We stayed there once. I was baptized a Lutheran.”

There was never enough time … never enough time for an open carriage ride around The Prater, and it wasn’t nearly as hard for her after the first time.

With a hand on her thigh, the soldier asked her, “Again what is your name?”

“Why does it matter??”

“As a boy, I sang in the choir at Nonnberg Abbey.”

Solders always had an advantage because of war. He knew this, as he loosened the lace of her bodice. She gave no resistance. In fact, she helped him. Her vows were forgotten, swept away by passion, breaking promises that she made to Fritz. Promises didn’t mean much anymore. They were causalities of war.

His intensity and endurance surprised her. He was alive and trembling. Then without ceremony, he said goodbye, and she thought where was gratitude. Then she realized that his size meant nothing to her, but there was something that did. She was now thinking straight. She swallowed, swallowed hard, and asked herself, how many times had she forgotten Lysoform and when was the last time she had a period.  Could she be?  Yes, she could be.

The idea terrified her. It was a big mistake, the biggest mistake she ever made, and it terrified her. Pregnant! Pregnant and she didn’t know who the father was. No Lysoform, no lysoform in Wien.  Which one was the father?
And then she remembered that for some time she regretfully didn’t protect herself. It was her responsibility and not the guy’s.  Ya, it was a whore’s fault!  No Lysoform, and now what did it matter? But there was no more Lysoform in Wein.

A single second made a difference in the world. Afterward, she felt clumsy and dirty, so clumsy and dirty.  Oh, yes, clumsy and dirty.  Oh, yes, she felt bad. She swallowed, knowing that she couldn’t keep a baby.  She knew she couldn’t explain it.  She knew, she knew she could explain it to Fritz.   But what was she to do? She was Catholic and knew what a priest would say.  She was Catholic and not Lutheran.

He began apologizing. So many of them wouldn’t have felt anything. It was clearly her fault. He couldn’t stop once he started. They were both desperate.

It didn’t matter that she didn’t know whose it was.

And so she shut her eyes.

It happened with a young boy really; then, if it was the one, she remembered that he seemed self-conscious … all fired up but self-conscious … though he could be her son. A gulf between his and her ages made no difference since no one was hurt.  Age differences made no difference, no difference to her … no difference because he was old enough to die.

By time he said goodbye, he forgot her name. She never knew his name.  She didn’t tell him her right name.  Perhaps he didn’t care enough about her to remember a name she gave him.  She couldn’t blame him, if there was anyone to blame, so blame it on war … a boy going to war. He spared no time that day to talk to her, but rushed out the door. He had a war to fight.

When she remembered him … if only she could be sure that he was the right one … she remembered how she had helped him. He was young and terrified. Yet in delight he yelp like a puppy. When she heard it, she thought of how it felt the first time with Fritz. The first time with Fritz … would she get another time with him? They had been wild with joy. Now she felt only sadness. Now instead of a whole lot of happiness, there was one small problem. She could think of it in that way and do something about it, or … she could be free of it, as long as it remained an “it”.  It made her feel sad.

Meanwhile war dragged on, and people shouldn’t forget men who went to war, men who were facing death in war, men who died fighting a war.

Remember it was a war that would end all wars. They had, in fact, dug themselves into a hole.

Fritz! Caught in Hell, he no longer dreamed of glory. Instead, he dreamed of bathing, a long soaking bath. Caught in Hell, he dreamed of women. Of course, he thought of his wife. Of stoking her hair. Touching her up. Knoodle and schnitzel. Strudel. Krugerstrasse. Grinsing. Cutie pie. Songs of love, always of love, pretty songs sung by rotten singers.

Fritz, caught in Hell, dreamed of the Prater in early spring, but sounds of battle substituted for sounds of thrushes and early lambs. And obsessed on cafe life, from conversation to cigarette smoke, comfortably talking or reading, even writing, the last sanctuary known to mankind, cafes. A frustrated and unrepentant cynic, with a little alcohol and opium, dull fetishism, he needed more booze. And more booze.

War changed everything. A heavy dose of death, unmentionable horror, cold feet, froze bite did it! Eyes burning from acrid smoke! He was no hero. What if he refused to go over the top? He was no hero.  They sent him crawling from trench to trench.

For as much as he wanted to communicate truthfully, there were subjects he avoided. Worst part. A broken spell worse than broken vows. After the front, everyone was game. She, on her part, also felt less willing to communicate honestly. Who was with his sweetie?

Before him lay many more battles. From cold and dreary Prussia, with a war to win and a staggering number of dead, Lord have mercy; to Belgium and to France, the war dragged on and on. Ahead of him lay Ardennes, Mons, and Ypres, places Fritz hadn’t heard of before.

”… for your reckless irresponsibility,” the hollow voice intoned, “… for violating your vows and traditions of family … family values.

To be faced with shame … delusion was easy in Wien. She never claimed to be pure.
But while she never intentionally hurt anyone, she was unfaithful at the very hour of her husband’s greatest trial.

But she quickly learned that irresponsibility didn’t pay. Irresponsibility? Was that what she called it? Now when she was faced with doing or not doing a responsible thing, she had to think of her family. Given a chance to think, and when it came down to it, it was who she was thinking of. She didn’t want to hurt them.  She didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

Fritz was on another planet. Their vows were broken, and he didn’t know it. And she could’ve accepted her responsibility and not turned her back on him

Now alone she walked up Staudgasse, but once she made up her mind she didn’t dare stop. Her one regret was not what she was about to do; it was that it wasn’t Fritz’s baby. She refused to consider other options now.  It was too late, too late to consider other options.  Maybe she didn’t have other options.

She hadn’t slept, hadn’t slept, hadn’t slept.   She knew that it would be over soon, if she could get over pain and knew that physical pain would go away soon enough. She no longer needed anyone else’s help, and she’d made up her mind without it. With some inner control she found name and address of a doctor who would take care of it   … and when she was most vulnerable, but had she learned her lesson? And at the same time as far as she knew, Fritz lay dead in a trench somewhere.

What she once hoped for was lost; changes familiar by now, some were not so subtle. She tried to talk about it to herself, tried many things. Her secret wouldn’t have been a secret for much longer. And she would never tell Fritz.  She would never tell anyone who was in her family.  She would never confide in anyone.

So this was it, she thought, and a long bath hadn’t cleansed her. A warm douche hadn’t stopped his sperm. Why hadn’t she used Lysoform?  Why wasn’t there Lysoform, Lysoform in Wein?

And now as she came to Hilderbrandgasse, with a twisted ankle, and in survival mode, she saw the address she was looking for. True, he had to be a disreputable gynecologist, or else he wouldn’t do it. A friend of a friend of a friend gave her Herr doktor’s name.

It seemed like a long wait, interminable in fact. Just a little longer. In an hour or less, it would be over. Powerless, she sat wondering what she was doing.  Why hadn’t she used Lysoform?  Why wasn’t there Lysoform in Wein?

Only a hundred shillings. She didn’t care what it cost.  A hundred shillings wasn’t as much as you would think.

He had her to take her clothes off now. Then as she stood there he put his arm around her. It felt as if she was inside someone else’s body but had she not been naked she would’ve ran!  Why did he put his arm around her?

His fingers roamed her body now, and his touch was gentle and direct as a lover’s touch. He began to say, “I could kiss you” and would’ve too had she responded. With a thousand apologies, he tried to reassure her. With a thousand apologies, he thought that he could win her over and felt faintly disappointed when he couldn’t. There were limits to how much she could stand, and it wouldn’t take much before she would crack. To him there weren’t limits.

Then finally tears came. As his short, chubby fingers cupped her breast.

He ignored her objections and tears. And he charged her a hundred shillings for an abortion, while abortion hurt less than having him kiss her. Kissed her and kissed her. Don’t complain, don’t squirm, don’t scream! Cursed dog! “Your secret is safe with me.” And why didn’t she scream? Women who came to him were never supposed to complain or squirm or scream.

“So allow me.”

Where had she heard that before?  Old memories came back to her. Some of them had been gentle, and some of them had been rough, but details were now blurred …something about lying on her back with her legs spread apart.

She felt cold as she lay on a cold, steel table. She didn’t feel anything else as he separated her legs. So far it had been the worse day of her life. It couldn’t get worse, but it did.

He then turned to the business of abortion, probing and penetration hurt less than she expected. He gave her something to ease pain, but nothing eased it entirely. For about ten minutes…maybe it was half an hour, an hour … an eternity. And how she hated him, hated him, hated men, hated all men.   God knew that she didn’t ask to be kissed. And her thinking got mixed up with thoughts she never straightened out. After she rebuked herself for … Wien lost much of its luster. Curious life is, really. Somewhere along the way, she fell asleep.  She never knew what he did to her while she was sleeping.

In months that followed she still grew restless. But now she was hesitant.  She now pulled it, it, it out quicker.  She now stayed home on certain days.  Now she wasn’t as assured of herself as she had been. For each time she went out she made sure.  There still wasn’t Lysoform in Wien. No more Lysoform. No more… Here were other vamps who thought as she thought. For each, the most important thing was to carry Lysoform with them.  But there was no more Lysoform in Wien.

For a long time she forgot about where she came from, that she hadn’t always been a vamp. But now and then, it all came back to her. She remembered as she walked through the Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and passed by an old tree trunk on her way to Stephansdom. She wasn’t looking for anyone, and no one recognized her. People surrounded her yet she asked, “Where is everybody?” Was she looking for men, when there weren’t many around? And there were thousands and thousands women without lovers. She shook her head. And there was no more Lysoform in Wien. A city without Lysoform, what a shame! It slowly came to her that there was little need for Lysoform. She might as well go back to where she came from. Do you have any idea how often she was tempted to go back to where she’d been when she had plenty of Lysoform? Thousands of women, thousands upon thousands without husbands. And without Lysoform. The same rule held for her now as it did then except now there was no Lysoform. We choose our world. We choose our protection.  Had she not learned anything?

”Hey!, soldier!” she called out.

“Frauline?” he whispered, so as not to be obvious.

Frauline! Of course, she was flattered. Well, of course. As simple as that, two lost souls found each other. Sex-stuck, gosh. “Frauline, would you like…” “Well, of course.”

And back outside across Stock-im-Eisen-Platz and they passed an old tree trunk and walked together down Karntnerstrasse, where they had a particular destination in mind. Over to Eve’s on Fuhrichgasse. Hurry. Walk quickly. “Is there any hope for me?”
“No hope whatsoever.”

For an hour or two, she and a soldier played around. Then sometime before the candle burned itself out, music, emotion, and sensation set off a flood of tears … a bucket of tears

Randy Ford


Leave a comment

Filed under short story

Randy Ford Author- O WHAT A LOVELY WAR!


by Randy Ford

The train reached West Bahnhof Station untypically late. Indeed, considering circumstances and unexpected delays, they were lucky to have reached Viennal. Having boarded first class section early that morning near the Serbian border, they were coming home from an extended vacation in the mountains. Since they were used to traveling with ease, it had been very strenuous. Train after train filled with troops caused their delay.

War had just been declared on Serbia, and many more men would join the army. News of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo sparked it, and after that diplomacy failed …was expected to fail … because of antagonism between Slavs and Teutons. It would be a short and glorious struggle, so the argument went, which meant that men were eager to go.

They had been sitting on the train all day long. Deep in thought Fritz closed his eyes and knew he would go. He had to go. And he knew that his wife wouldn’t like it. But did his wife’s feelings matter? It didn’t matter whether she objected or not; he was going. He wanted to go. While he was thinking of going, his wife waved and smiled at the soldiers that filled trains heading in the opposite direction. But while she did this she couldn’t escape a sense of foreboding.

By now, initial shock and anger over the assassinations had turned into excitement. At this early stage only a few shots had been fired, and most people of Vienna had decided that the war wouldn’t amount to much. So far, people of Vienna hadn’t felt pain of war. So far, only reservists had been called up, while many more men would soon be needed.

Troop trains had the right away, so they had to wait and wait. Fritz and family had to wait.  Now and then, while they waited, were stopped and waited, wine bottles were passed from train to train through open windows and toasts were exchanged. The scene filled Pauline with emotion, tense emotion, as she heard about how well things were going on the Austrian front. Marvelous news! She had no reason to doubt these reports. It was indeed good news because as soon as they got back to Vienna her husband was expected to report to his unit.

Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Rutheniums, Italians, Bosnians and Croats, all of these nationalities made up the Austrian army. It was true, but which of these nationalities could be trusted? Just because they were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were they expected to remain loyal?

Young Fritz knew that he would have to put his life on hold.  Fritz knew he would have to place his life on line.   For most his life he hadn’t had to worry about anything. Now it was as though the bottom fell out everything. Already a family man, he had a secure job that guaranteed a pension when he retired, so he hoped he secured his future.

In those days they enjoyed each other’s company.  Pauline would have done anything for him. Now she desperately held him and showed him as much affection as possible. She would miss him.  She loved him.  O how she would miss him.

After moments of intimacy … hours of company … days of joy and happiness … she hated to think about it. She was also thinking about her two sons, her two sons missing their father.

In turn he showed her his love.

From outset of war, the military commandeered trains. For first time in their lives the family was delayed time and time again. It gave Fritz time to wonder if he had temperament to fight.  It gave him time to think. He sat impatiently in his seat. They were scheduled to reach Vienna at 2:18 in the afternoon. However, they were so delayed that they didn’t arrive until after dark.

Normally Westbahnhof Station was crowded, a busy place, but now it was even more so. The family immediately stepped off the train but due to the crowd could only take a few steps at a time. In a hurry, they pushed past couples kissing and holding each other, while trying to delay their inevitable goodbye. It all seemed more rushed than it needed to be.

Lives were placed on hold and promises were hastily made. Then so much was left up to wives. So wives had to be strong. Sweethearts had a choice … wives did not. It was harder for sweethearts to resist temptation. Pauline felt that she didn’t have any say about this war and felt helpless. She would have to live with uncertainties. On the whole soldiers said goodbye with some degree of optimism. Suddenly they were thrust into something bigger than they were. Soon they were fighting to win the war to end all wars.

As he lay in a trench in mud because it just rained, Fritz waited for word from home.  He missed home.  He missed Pauline.  He missed his children.  “The beauty of our hearth” … almost all of Pauline’s letters avoided what was really going on. Because of war, she didn’t want to make it more unpleasant for him. With a word or two about herself and their boys, upon whose love he depended, she tried to reassure him.  She never mentioned war.  She always said she missed him.  She always said she loved him.

While the Kaiser continued to build his army, Pauline had nightmares, some involving her husband’s death on the battlefield; others involving destruction of the world.  Destruction of the world, destruction of the world … she couldn’t get it off her mind.  She saw a game for which no one took responsibility. Not even the Kaiser. Kaiser Franz Joseph conspicuously dressed in wine-stained civvies. Just as he stepped down from his carriage, Pauline focused on his long whiskers. It was hard for her to forget a gaze with which she felt he maligned her.  She couldn’t forget contempt he showed.

It had not yet been a year when she took her first lover. She was hoping to forget her loneliness and sorrow after each lover, but memories of her husband only compounded it. She couldn’t sleep; then she started drinking and found herself wandering streets in a kind of morass. She tried to lose herself in crowds.  She tried to lose herself in lovers. She roamed the Prater. More than once she roamed the Prater and grazed on apples. She went deep into the woods, the Vienna Woods, and unknown to anyone searched for mushrooms. Covered with morning dew woods invited her, and she loved solitude, but to stroll alone wasn’t much fun.

Fritz might have felt sad, but never lonely. He definitely missed Pauline. Luckily he could conjure up an image of her.

It was after midnight.  At last silence. No more artillery fire. Troops on both sides tried to sleep. They all needed sleep. He generally wore galoshes and wore them not only to protect his feet but to also feel civilized. Fritz would wear out several galoshes before war was over.

Snow fell all night. It was intolerable. It wouldn’t have been under different circumstances. By daybreak, no one escaped wet and cold. It was the same on both sides. Fritz was always thankful for his galoshes.

Each morning they surveyed through periscopes a new landscape, since violent fusillades tore the land without regard for houses or trees.  Trees suffered.  Houses suffered.  People suffered.  It seemed like the end of the world.  With open land sloping down from their trenches, they were in an excellent position, which they fortified with barbed wire. Sometimes they fought poorly and were forced to abandon their trenches, but this wasn’t one of those days. This morning Fritz had to supervise digging of a new trench. Digging trenches made them feel the same as burrowing animals. Fritz enlisted for glory, not to dig ditches, and trained to fight from a horse, not from a trench. To him, a sign of defeat came when he had to dig a hole to survive. Imagine the difference it would’ve made had he been killed on a horse.  Now he was digging his own grave.

Before long certain designated men climbed out of trenches and, shortly thereafter, returned with the day’s provisions. It was a good meal, soups or a stew of some sort. By nine day’s tedium started with a precise and scientific struggle of artillery. Field batteries and siege guns generally sent shells whistling over their heads and were unmistakable for their lesser report. Exploding contact shells were more impressive. Shrapnel, shattering trees, snapping trunks as if they were twigs, while sniping went on all the time.

Packed elbow to elbow in trenches, and as one became habituated, one could expect to spend the whole day standing. Fritz longed for attacking, anything for a change. Never mind barbed wire, baronets, and rifle butts … anything was better than monotony.

He had become familiar with death … seen worse side of humanity, but they still talked of glory. Still joked, but there was no fun about it … still talked of glory, but there was no glory.  Some laughed, some laughed readily, some cried, some cried easily or tried to laugh. Most knew that war was no laughing matter.

The whole battlefield, which Fritz never had an opportunity to see, once was poor rocky farmland. Since the stalemate, there didn’t seem to be a reason to attack … there didn’t seem a reason to charge.   It seemed as if all parties agreed to allow artillery to do the dirty work.

It had been different in the Balkans. But few fighters could match, as a whole, the Turks. No one could equal them in the open field or close-up with bayonets. Having successfully fought in the Balkans, Fritz fretted over inaction. The truth was that he didn’t know why they were still out there. But desertion would’ve been impossible.  He felt trapped.

It was winter of 1915, a year full of fire and smoke. “Those swine over there, which we never see, would love to smash us; but not today!”

Fritz fooled himself into thinking that suffering proved that he was still alive. To tell him the truth would be cruel. Still he was as sensible as he could be, given circumstances he was as sensible as he could be, but reality of war drove him deeper and deeper and deeper into the realm of insensibility.

Night sky offered Fritz the same array of moon and stars that he often observed in Vienna. Stark beauty of night extended way beyond vast tracks of barren wasteland. Then order came to give their position.

Retreat couldn’t escape notice. If nothing else constant grinding of motors would give them away. With moon flooding the hillside they didn’t try to fool the enemy. It seemed as if fools led the army, or else they wouldn’t have made so many mistakes. Or perhaps their retreat was a mere gesture, inviting an attack … inviting a charge.

Rations were distributed to all troops. Everybody got his share of wine. Nobody would consider celebrating the Kaiser’s birthday without some. It was best time Fritz had since leaving Vienna.  Most of his unit enjoyed an unaccustomed degree of comfort. Before going to sleep Fritz proposed a toast to the Kaiser from what he had left of a bottle of wine. But in spite of camaraderie each man felt that he was fighting a private war.

Fritz couldn’t stop thinking of Pauline and their separation. So many things were left unsaid. In general terms he wanted to reassure her.  In general terms he wanted to be reassured.  He wanted to tell her that he planned to return to her in one piece. However, he knew he couldn’t control his destiny.  He always said in his letters that he loved her.

Pauline also knew the risks. As her sympathies shifted her feelings for her husband cooled. By this time, she became aware of her own worst enemies. She hadn’t foreseen this, nor could she avoid it.

They were ordered to move on. Fritz shrugged. With hourly halts, it was a long, hard journey. Graves along the roadside reminded him of dangers he tried to dismiss. He shifted his rifle and a heavy load, as he pushed himself forward in cadence with others.

He dove for the ground and threw his face in the dirt. Whiz-bang! He found himself dodging shrapnel again. Again, dust. Whiz-bang!  Again smell of powder. Again black smoke darkened the sky. Whiz-bang!  His eyes watered and burned. He checked himself for bleeding. Everything was now riddled with holes. Bleeding. No pain.  Bleeding.   Living as a mole he returned to burrowing.  More bleeding.

Life meant nothing.  A life meant nothing. How it seemed as if it didn’t affect him. But, as he engaged in disengaging, there were things that happened to him that afterwards he could never face.

He lived with a fear of someday panicking.  He feared that someday he would run.  That never made sense because Ivan repeatedly shot at him, while he had a strong angular face and was often heard humming sweet, bitter songs, which encouraged others.  Ivan?  Who were they fighting?  Did it make a difference?

These memories, frozen in time, reminded him of how they struggled in vain. How could he foresee the outcome of this war? A soldier can’t accept idea of defeat or that death was a waste.  “Christ!” he began hearing voices from the grave. As their situation continually changed, death remained always the same. Death.  All he could hope for was that war would end before his number came up.  Death.  Death was always around him.

Terrified, he climbed over the top.  An order they waited for came. Some weren’t ready; other were not; others couldn’t be held back. For a few meters he crawled on his stomach under barbwire, as his battalion formed the first wave, the vanguard. Their objective: kill the enemy … kill as many enemies as possible.

Fritz ran straight ahead and never knew when or if he would reach the enemy. Now with his head erect he ran across a land mine. Though Fritz lived, he lived to envy the dead. That day, without morphine, he lost a leg. Then profiting from his injury he crawled back under barbed wire.

“God, please, please, please God! Jesu Maria, why? Blessed Virgin, a drink of water! Nurse! Morphine!”

Fritz had been athletic and had been very strong. Now he congratulated himself for each breath he took. His face showed pain, but his quivering lips showed determination, determination to show no emotion. But inside he felt like he was going to explode. Feeling less than a man now dogged him.

“Hold on soldier!” implored a volunteer, as she washed his stump as well as she could. “Where are you from?” she asked.

“Don’t you know your German?”

Pity and gangrene too. And odor was sickening. Gauze was a greenish yellow. Such were her thoughts. Then she said, “You’re lucky, brave boy, to have been delivered from the avenger.”

“What do I care?” he said.

But she was too busy to hear him.  Nurses were kept running and hurried as fast as they could. From cot to cot in some incomprehensible way they managed to smile. To Fritz they seemed like apparitions.

Multitudes of wounded men poured in like a rushing torrent. They were carried from battlefields until aisles of every ward were packed. Some screamed over something as innocuous as a hypodermic needle. Regardless, each patient had to have a tetanus shot.

As for Fritz, he relapsed into imagining Pauline, her use of cosmetics, her lipstick, and her hair, brisk with cherry yellow, and scoffed at the idea that she would ever look past his missing leg. Would she still find him handsome? His pessimism seemed justified.

It was a bitter winter. It was a harsh winter.  It was a bloody winter.  He saw too much.   His feet were previously bit by frostbite. (Note that he still spoke in terms of plural: “feet.”) Perhaps he connected cold feet with numbness he felt throughout his body.  Numbness, numbness he felt in his brain.   A doctor predisposed to amputate saved Fritz’s life.

Meanwhile in Vienna, hunger caused by a blockade continued. Hoarding increased suffering. It was known that the wealthy escaped much of the deprivation; but no one lived through the war without making sacrifices.

With hospitals full, and ranks of helpers depleted, and while chances of winning diminished, war lost its luster. By then, and after all the clicking of heels and saber rattling, much of the enthusiasm cooled.

Pauline responded early. Her personality dictated it … dictated that she help.  Often a friend, sometimes a lover, always a Catholic, and unquestionably a beauty, she never tired. Maybe she thought that she could embrace an entire nation. She would’ve been better off had she been sent out the city, or to a hospital where she could look for her husband.

The war itself, except for a blockade and sorrow of so many families, spared Vienna. But the great storm came close, while the capital on the Danube seemed charmed and never suffered occupation. The Great War rolled up to its doorstep but didn’t come in. But with fall of the Habsburgs everything pointed to a shrunken Austria. Starving because of blockade, former civil servants by the thousands found themselves scrambling for jobs.

“Austria, beware! The French coq gauloies with bloody beaks wait for you, and rooster says, ‘I’ll have you instead of my liver!’” And this was no idle threat.

“Stabbed in the back!” Very soon not even Mr. Wilson’s Fourteen Points stood  between Austria and vengeance of her enemies. Were they expecting to draw blood out of a turnip especially when turnips were all they had to eat? Thumb in the eye and knee on the chest? What more did they want?

Randy Ford


Leave a comment

Filed under short story

Randy Ford Author- NAM


by Randy Ford

And war is personal
And it hurts

As a writer, a poet, and a patron of the arts, Margo had long been a crusader. Then came a time when nothing was more important to her than expressing her opposition to war in Southeast Asia.

She reinvented herself several times, while working through phases as they came along. This scared her husband, particularly after she decided to hold a colloquium at her coffeehouse on “Freedom and the Return to Paganism.” From her small stage, speakers led discussions about eroticism with emphases on body parts (for women belly, tits, and thighs and for men beards, balls, and muscles). Obviously each person had to make up their own mind, but the most prevalent ideas concerned freedom. When someone then asked what freedom meant, someone else yelled, “Make love, not war!” It wasn’t long before word got out and “Make love, not war!” became a rallying cry.

Margo’s coffeehouse attracted a certain crowd, and this crowd tended to be against war in Southeast Asia. And many people considered Margo a hippie, though she wasn’t one. She was more complex than most hippies but she liked the label and used it as a marketing tool. When Yippies came in vogue she adopted them too. This enabled her to meet the Chicago Eight before the rest of the world did.
If you were looking for reasons why Margo opposed war in Southeast Asia asking her wouldn’t have helped. During the early years of the war she didn’t pay didn’t pay much attention to it, and she was against it before she knew why. One source could’ve been her brother. She heard from him from time to time, and by then he lived in Bangkok, but it just didn’t click that he was connected with the war. It wasn’t until she opened her coffeehouse that she was exposed to the protest movement.

She sympathized with the Vietnamese, though she couldn’t say where these feelings came from. She was too busy to keep track of what was going on. Yet it was through her business that she came in contact with bands and musicians such as Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. Or rather kids in bands that imitated Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. And it was those kids, who stood up to the troops with bayonets and yelled, ”And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”

There wasn’t a specific incident that turned Margo against war in Southeast Asia (like the Tet Offensive of that year that showed that the American public was lied to). Nothing specific like what energized the five thousand women who rallied in Washington or caused Eartha Kitt to yell at Lady Bird Johnson. Margo never got overly concerned about the “credibility gap” or followed the Gallup poll that showed that 50% of Americans disapproved of Johnson’s handling of the war. Early on she identified with the “hawks.” Because of her husband, she almost had to. In those days there were “chickens” and “hawks,” and Margo’s husband couldn’t afford to be seen as a “chicken.”
Symbols such as chicken foot were most useful and usable. Chicken foot was important to many GI’s because it was their symbol for draft dodgers. It didn’t matter that it was also a symbol for the peace movement. It wasn’t a big deal because many grunts were ex-hippies … only they hadn’t escaped the draft. So many of them drew chicken feet on their helmets.

Margo grew fond of a chicken foot medallion, given to her by a GI, but while there were still questions in her mind she didn’t wear it. It was around the time Democrats chose Chicago for the site of their national convention. Then because of riot, violence, she began wearing the medallion around her neck. It reminded her of the GI who gave it to her and her brother, who ran away before the draft became a problem for him. Look! She didn’t know what her brother was doing in Southeast Asia. Didn’t know whether he was a chicken or a hawk.

The thing to remember is that Chicago got a bad rap. As Abbie Hoffman said “it was where flower children lost their innocence and grew horns.” In trying to explain what happened people said all kinds of things. For it is only when one collected posters, slogans, and medallions can one save something tangible. Regarding the overall scheme of things, it’s often all we have left.

It kind of went like this. “Cool” and “groovy” replaced substantive comments. Margo accepted this laziness. Dope was cool. Longhaired runaway kids were groovy. When saints were eliminated her eyes were opened by truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Well, it was cool and groovy. So Margo demonstrated, marched, carried picket signs, and got herself arrested. And it was cool.  All of it was cool.

Forget the same ol’ bullshit. Get involved. Do as much as you can. Stick it up whose ass? Nixon’s ass! What happened to LBJ? Every night at the coffeehouse, Margo offered theater and magic and madness. She never promised a polished work, or a logical argument, but insisted on truth. War hurts, so without peace, she didn’t believe life was worth living.

Sing “Tommy Gun’s,” repetitive phrases, staccato fire and shatter glass. There was a suggestion of mayhem. Take the crowd trapped in front of the Conrad Hilton. Take clubbing and bleeding as spectators in the Haymarket Lounge watched and a feeling of uselessness hung over the scene. Here we were at war in American, as it was brought home from Nam. And as Janis Joplin breathed heavily into a mike, she warned us that “world ain’t pretty.” Of course the Mayor had to comment. “These are ugly times, but I’m doing everything possible … An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The act of touching became a statement and a cause. Touching promoted expression. Orgasms signified life. Throw in screwing. Lincoln Park became a freak show, with kids yelling “we are the future” as they pissed on the grass. With contempt they cried for freedom, while Margo insisted that the description of universal promiscuity didn’t fit her.  Pass out condoms.

To Margo’s parents, other people’s children seemed more adjusted than their own. Many of them were heroes, men and women serving in Southeast Asia. Now whenever these service men and women were honored, Margo’s parents wondered where they failed.  They considered their son a draft dodger.

Now the levitation of the Pentagon was really something. It released energy somehow, and God knew it needed to be released. It also sent a clear message to the brass working inside the building. So this extraordinary event, the levitation of the Pentagon, couldn’t be poo-pooed.  Clubbing and shouting “pig” couldn’t either. It meant that war was closer to home than any of them thought. Mostly white, protestors were called spoiled brats, yet they went to battle, or soon would. But for the grace of God they were fighting in Arlington and Chicago rather than Southeast Asia.

Many people remembered that Margo wore a chicken foot medallion. But for her sex, she would’ve been drafted and in spite of her feelings would’ve served her country. “Linebacker Two, this is your quarterback.” White and female and over thirty, she survived Chicago and had personal reasons for protesting war in Southeast Asia.

Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under short story