Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Minute by Minute

Her voice startles me in the somber quiet of the waiting room.

"What is that thing?" she asks.

I look over in surprise and then explain it is a Sony pocket ereader. It holds books and news.

She asks me in garbled language whether it goes online. At least I think that's what she means. It sounds as though she doesn't know much about computers to ask the question. I explain it does not, and that I have to upload books from the computer myself. She glazes over, and I turn away, back to my own business.

Three seats away, a fellow's iphone blurts out a sentence fragment--"Hello" in a big, sunny female voice that shatters the waiting room's silence like glass breaking. He stifles it and curls up into himself. I go back to my reading while particles of guilt pick at my brain's outer layers. The woman next to me. She only wanted someone to chat with. Her eyes when I look are restless, nervous. Pill bottles poke out of her hand bag. She's taken a seat too close to me. Only one empty chair separates us. That's bad form. The guy's iphone blurts out again, and once more his quick stifle.

Are we becoming a generation of isolationists? All of these electronic gizmos...with them, we can communicate in other ways instead of with those in the present. And for me, an old-fashioned book is easy to lay aside, but an electronic ereader demands respect. It is too important to lay aside. All shiny and trendy. It's not some paper book with bent corners and dirty, crinkled pages.

In the exam room, I wait some more. The doctor hurries in. He signs insurance papers for me while at the same time scans a monitor. I correct and add to some of what catches his eye. He helps me to the exam table and starts the required poking and prodding. All comes to a complete halt listening to my heart. He puts his hand on my chest and listens more. The silence in the room deafens me. He asks when I last had an EKG. He says he heard an extra heart beat. I've been without insurance for a while, so I tell him at least three years have gone by. He orders one and says he'll be back.

Later, after the test, he smiles and states my EKG is better than his. I'm released from the brief worry and switch back to regular mode, pondering as is my fashion, if the remark is from the doctor's box of standard words and phrases, like, "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning." It doesn't matter. Standard phrases mean life is normal. That's the main thing. Normal.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Secret Santa


Joey felt his pulse quicken as he read the name on a crinkled piece of paper: Sarah Getty. Of all people, he got Sarah in the Christmas grab bag. Sarah, the most beautiful girl in creation with long red hair that cascaded and bounced in the sun like jewels. But a ready smile that illuminated even the darkest day was her finest feature. He crunched the paper in a sweaty palm and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. How in the heck could he buy her a gift when he couldn't even afford lunch money? And she deserved the most fabulous gift in the world.

After school he took a walk around town, just to look. The streets hummed with busy shoppers, pushing and shoving, rushing, their arms weary from dragging packages. He surveyed them and wondered how they had so much money to buy all that stuff. His fingers pushed around in empty pockets, except for a few coins and $5.00, a part of which was already spoken for to buy groceries for his mom. It was only the middle of December, so he had two weeks to go on his scrawny finances. His mom did her best to give him a few bucks. But being a single mother with four kids was a challenge. He had learned to grow up early, filling in where Dad used to be, helping around the house and taking care of his brother and sisters. Mom worked two jobs, so someone had to keep an eye on the kids, make them meals, help with their homework. Even now, he didn't have long to linger before he needed to get home before the younger ones got in from school.

He walked further, lost in thought, bemoaning his miseries, when to his surprise he walked right into a red kettle Santa, knocking the fellow off his feet and slamming to the pavement.

"HEY! What the heck!" the guy yelled.

Joey, red-faced, extended a hand to help him to his feet. "I'm sorry, Mister. I wasn't looking." He uttered the apology in breathless gasps. Santa was a portly fellow to lift.

Whimsical, button eyes peered back at him and a smile scampered across Santa's face. "No harm done, sonny! We're all busy. Ho, ho, ho!"

Joey chuckled. "You take your job seriously, I see. What with the ho, ho, ho and all."

"It's not a job. It's a calling."

Joey stepped back. "I see," he said, smiling. His eyes wandered to the red kettle where a twenty-dollar bill peeked out from the contents. What a great gift he could buy with that twenty dollars! What was he thinking? Ripping off Santa!

"It's a bad idea," Santa murmured.

Joey looked back in surprise. His mind raced and the urge to steal was quickly replaced by humiliation and confusion, confusion as to how Santa knew what he was thinking. It was all more than he could handle. He turned on his heel and sped away.

On Christmas eve, Joey walked to school like an inmate heading to the chamber, head bowed, dragging his feet which shuffled as though in chains. He had no present for Sarah Getty for the grab bag. There was bound to be an awkward moment coming when no gift would be found with her name on it. Stunned silence would fill the room as everyone looked around in horror. Maybe he could stand up and give her whatever he got. He could step forward like a gallant fellow saying, "Who is the jerk that didn't buy you a gift? Here, take mine!" He would look like a hero and no one would suspect him as the creep who left Sarah empty-handed. Joey grunted. No way he could pull that off! He ached with guilt and a host of other unsettling emotions. His embarrassment would surely betray him.

As Mr. Findley, the teacher, picked up the final present, Joey fought back the urge to go screaming from the room. Sarah Getty sat expectantly, and he knew she thought that last package was hers. But it wouldn't be. He fingered the gloves he had been given by Jean Hardy. They were a nice gift, but he could hardly offer them to Sarah. What would she do with a man-sized pair of gloves? His heart rat-tat-tatted in his chest. If only he could disappear.

The teacher glanced at the gift tag and announced, Sarah Getty.

That girl rushed to the front to receive her gift. Joey watched, his blood freezing in his veins inch by inch as his panic lengthened. Who gave her a gift?

She tore into the tiny present, ripping off wrapping paper, tossing ribbon aside, finally to uncover a jewelry box. She opened the lid and smiled. Lifting a gold necklace for all to see, she read her Secret Santa's name, which prompted her to smile at Joey and toss him a kiss.

"Thank you, Joey! It is exactly what I've been wanting," she said.

Joey grinned like a lovesick sailor. And then the mystery hit him. Where did the gift come from? And why did the card say it was from him? But memories of that kiss took over his mind, and he walked home thinking of nothing else. As he passed the red kettle Santa, that portly fellow chuckled and murmured, "Ho, ho, ho!"

And people don't believe in Santa! Go figure! Ho, ho, ho!


Copyright 2010 JO Janoski



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Bells

Silver resplendent
musical ribbons twirling
to wrap doubting hearts
in vision-warmed memories
of childhood wonders,
an inspiration unsought
while painting Christmas in thought. 

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski







Monday, December 06, 2010

Away

Skimming
slip-sliding through
skating gliding on by,
beware, speed demon, blurring life
away.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Seeing You

Liquid rapture runs
like coffee hot and brewed strong.
Seeing you does that.
Sets my mind to percolate
tastes and smells inviolate.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski



Monday, November 29, 2010

Night Walk

Beneath gray skies and nightly shimmers
I walk in the stillness of the night.
Silence whispers, a dull moon glimmers.
The world freezes in a blast of light.
I step between the moment's shimmers
in that space to see what is, what might.
Clarity speaks in wisdom grandiose
ensconced in whispers from nightly ghosts.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski





Monday, November 22, 2010

Life Lesson

He m
aintained a position of ongoing inquiry, his face tilted, eyes laughing while a matching grin pasted to his face. But the man revealed this lofty persona only to a few ... that being his students, and only in their lessons.


In contrast to the playful expression, most times he walked plainly, hands at his side, feet dragging, a vision dull and nondescript, coasting up and down the hallways at school like a ghostly ship lost at sea. He moved now in this sluggish way to a student across the room, at a moment’s notice to animate and project those lively eyes in the boy’s face.

“And how would you define hatred, Master Peters?”

Young Jim Peters looked back in alarm. When the teacher, Professor Stein, used the prefix, “master” to address a student, he meant business.

“Professor, I don’t think it really exists as an actual thing, per se. I think hatred is simply a perception, a word we use to describe when disagreeing with someone...it indicates one’s frustration and disappointment with another person. It's a descriptor existing only in thin air.”

“Is that so?” Professor Stein turned on his heel and walked away. With his back turned to the class, he paused, head bowed, one hand stroking his chin. He turned to face them.

“How many of you agree...that hatred has no real substance and only exists in the mind of the beholder?”

Startled classmates glanced at one another before one scant girl in the front raised her hand.

“It’s...it’s not nice to hate. We wouldn’t want to give it that much importance. It is inconsequential. It is an annoying fault of human character ... meant to be ignored.” The skinny, little blond sat back as though waiting to be pounced upon for her remark.

“I see,” the professor replied, pacing across the room in obvious thought. He turned and walked back front and center again. “And so, you feel that hatred is this flighty, little annoyance that you can swat away like a fly when it bothers you?”

“You make it sound lame,” a fellow in the back stated.

“It’s not like that! Hatred is painful to feel. It eats you up inside,” another quipped.

“Yeah, don’t talk down to us!” one brave soul offered.

Professor Stein glared at his class. “Who has taught you this nonsense?” He asked this slowly and in the slightest of whispers.

The students once again looked perplexed, searching their ranks for answers.

Eyes blazing Professor Stein asked, “If feeling hatred is so hard on the purveyor, then don’t you think the one on whom it is lashed must suffer a million times as much?”

Silence.

He continued. “So, you are surprised to hear that the hatred you feel can cause pain to another. It is not simply all about you and your ‘discomfort.’”

He waited.

“Even just a hateful stare can slice through the heart of another,” Professor Stein continued. “And when your hate is trivialized by you, pushed aside like an unwelcome visitor, it will not stand for that. It eats you up inside, building a voice, getting stronger. It demands that all can see and feel it. It demands recognition.”

The lights in his eyes went out, and that dull professor returned. With a shaky hand, he rolled up his sleeve. He took short, nervous breaths as he did so. Pulling back the cloth, a smudge on his left forearm glared out at the students. Closer observation revealed a triangle with three numbers, 6-6-9, tattooed on the skin. The lines were drawn in scrawny animation, angular and irregular, racing across weathered flesh. The numbers screamed out the horrors of decades past, a time these students could only read about in books.

“I got this in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942. This is what happens when hatred is left unacknowledged and unchecked to run free.”

Like leaves rustling in the wind, a stunned reaction blew up and down the rows of students. The professor didn’t notice. He was a man alone.

“It hurt when they punched the needles into my arm, but even more the tool sliced into my soul and sucked it out. They took it from me.

“I was excrement to them. They reduced me to nothing, no humanity, no soul, a cattle to call, branded like an animal. My dignity, my life, my family, my friends, all gone. They spat on me, and they kicked me, and left me to lie in my own filth.” He turned his back to the class.

“You can’t treat it so lightly. You must learn to acknowledge hatred’s power over you and dig it out -- find the roots and dig it out, to fight it with the only force strong enough to win against it. For God’s sake, counter it with all the love the angels can inspire. 

"For me, this is a daily struggle. I wake up and my first thought is I have another day of hate emerging, kicking and scratching to be set free -- memories haunt me ... memories of them watching me, their eyes burning; but in my next breath, I ask my heart to listen. I offer it love to conquer the hate. Each day my blackened heart tires more of my pacifist ramblings. It shudders and makes room to let a little more love in, a little more of me back ... someday, God willing, I'll be purified and emerge whole again. Would that my enemies would have tried each morning to find love in themselves instead of hate for me.”

He realized he’d said too much, and shaking himself from the nightmare, he walked back to stand behind his desk. He stood tall.

“Class dismissed,” he said. 

A life lesson had been given, from he who lived it.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Night Sounds

Night Sounds

Winds are moaning
like an old man 
straddling a cane.
And rain rushes,
reminding me of the sound 
of trains speeding by  
on lonely nights...
like this one.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski
 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Voices

Voices
across that creek
haunt like wayward souls moan.
I wonder if they call for me
in hymns.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Morning in October

A cricket sounds
as a delicate pink
whispers across skies
graced by trees reaching
with yellow brilliance
except for one maple
that stands tall in red.
I breathe in air
moist with October
while wondering
why I always sleep
and miss this miracle.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Compassion and Crap

His voice streamed in a haunting chant, serene, monotone. All the while his eyes darted back and forth. The face was bread dough, dull and inexpressive folds, while he recited mundane details; but his eyes, when he stopped talking, popped alive like sirens, excited, ready for the challenge.

He was a cop, through and through. And they had found a body, wrapped in a plastic bag and dumped in a bin behind Donatelli's restaurant. The assembled collection of reporters and onlookers hung on his every word. But, really, he wanted to trample them all on his way out.

"Sir, do you have any suspects?"

"Will you be making any arrests?"

He ignored them, pushing through their clamors and dangling microphones, pausing only to survey a crew of street people who had clustered near to listen. One of those stepped forward as if to speak. But Detective Cyrus Clone didn’t give him a chance.

“Get outta here, you bums! Whaddaya looking at?” Cy wished he could throw the whole bunch in jail, but that wouldn’t do, not in this day and age.

“Officer Cy, I saw something!” It was the one known as “Hobo". His real name was Hobbes, but the more apropos “Hobo” was his preferred nomenclature.

Cy looked him over, scanning the fellow from head to toe. With a sigh, he tugged his notebook out of a busy pocket, sending miscellany flying out of its threadbare confines. He stuffed most of it back in as he spoke. “What did you see?”

“I saw a guy in a blue suit running from here. Really running, like a bat outta hell.”

“More than likely he was running to get away from you! Did you ever think of that?”

Hobo stepped back. “There’s no need to talk down to me!”

“Ah, get outta here before I arrest you!” That said, Officer Cyrus Clone huffed away and didn’t look back.


Later, at the station, no clues turned up. No DNA, no prints. They had a body with no name, no idea as to who the murderer was. All they did know was that the victim was a woman, young, between 18 and 25 years old, blond, blue eyes, nice figure. No tattoos or other identifying markings. She’d been stabbed repeatedly.

Cy and his partner, Stan Holler, a tall, dome-headed fellow, went to the morgue to view the body. Such a beautiful young girl! Cy’s eyes ignited with the glean of adventure...the hunt to find justice for the pretty woman was on.

“I bet it was those street bums,” he murmured.

“Cy, you have no proof of that. And Hobo said he saw someone.”

“You can’t trust bums living on the street. When are you going to learn that? You’re always so full of trust, compassion and crap!” Cy reached for his address book to check a list of phone numbers he kept, “snitches” who might be able to help. But it wasn’t in his pocket.

“Damn! My address book’s missing!”

“Where did you lose it?”

“If I knew where I lost it, it wouldn't be lost, now would it?"

“Sorry, Cy! Just trying to be helpful.”

“Let’s go. I’ve been thinking about it, and I bet that Hobo picked my pocket. He leaned kind of close when we were talking.”

The other cop grinned. “Well, why you’re asking about that, I’m going to quiz him about the guy he saw at the scene.”


They found Hobo behind the bakery stuffing a donut in his mouth. Powdered sugar sprinkled white on his gray beard while he smacked his lips in enjoyment.

“Stop right there, Hobo!” Officer Cy barked.

The bum stared back in alarm. "I didn't steal this. It's a day-old donut! They give 'em away!"

"I'm not here about the donut! I'm here about my address book, you filthy thief!"

Stan stepped forward, pushing Cy aside. "Hobo, did you see someone yesterday by those dumpsters where the  body was found?"

"That's what I was trying to tell you! I saw a guy in a suit, a brown suit, shiny shoes, nice tie, the whole bit! I saw him dump the body in that bin and run away. I didn't know at the time it was a body though. I just thought he was an odd person to be dumping garbage, being all dressed up and all."

"Have you ever seen him before? Do you know who he is?

The bum glanced around and leaned toward the other two. "That's just it! I think it was the president of the bank," he murmured, nodding toward First National across the street.

"What?" Cy spun around in surprise. "Are you lying?"

"No, Officer Cy! I wouldn't fib to you."

"A likely story! Which reminds me, did you steal my address book, punk?"

"No, sir! But I did find one, at the spot where we were talking earlier. I gave it to the bakery people to keep in case someone came looking for it, just a little while ago."

Stan was already on the phone sending some uniforms to pick up the bank president for questioning.  He grinned at Cy. "You should stop by the bakery and pick it up," he said.

"Yeah, I will," Cy barked.

"Oh, by the way, you really should have more trust and 'crap' in people."

"Yeah, I will," Cy said again. He did, and you know, it made him a better cop. But don't tell him that. He'd never admit it.


Copyright 2010 JO Janoski







Friday, October 29, 2010

Passing By









Passing by

I hear your heartbeat,
see the fire in your soul.
It ignites the air around
your wilted body
while agony screams from still lips
and your feet jerk
every now and then
as though you're running.
But mostly you are motionless,
except to rattle a tin cup
along Fifth Avenue
in the middle of the day.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Glittering

Shadows pursue me
laying claim to each heartbeat,
while I search myself.
I know better. I know more.
Escaping mayhem
that bellows, yells, calls my name,
I deny this past
of so-called experience,
to reclaim my life.
My soul seeks inspiration
by my word, changes,
every moment to come,
glittering whispers,
angels trickling through like light,
soulful guidance mine,
the unknown and unforeseen
understandable at last.

Copyright JO Janoski 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ascension

You walk, the ground dares not tremble
touching your feet.
You move, the winds chant hymns blissful
sweeping paths in motions artful
purifying through sweet song beats.
You rise from the graces in life
like Phoenix after his defeat
awash in strife
ascends complete.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Dreams

Emerald songs fill my nights
in tribute to better days of yore
when flowers hummed and sang
before time stomped them, silenced them all
wilting all things somber brown.
What beauty comes in memory's sweet recall
singing still, old familiar songs,
while dressed in rainbows, strung with pearls
each gem a passing memory
in recall stronger than it was before
because dreams are stronger, longer than reality.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tattoo Artist

Defining 
with linear strokes
and tsk tsk dot dot circles
our lives of circuitous roaring
in review for all to know
abbreviated
in whispers.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Tattoo Artist - Norman Rockwell

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chased

Rushing
fleeing dawn
in hushed whispers
with rustling tick-tock heartbeats.
Running.

Chased
by time
strumming new beginnings
across those yesteryear fields running.
Rushing.


Photo & Poem
Copyright 2010 JO Janoski


Sunday, June 20, 2010

After the Party

After the party
mixed amongst splattered plastic cups
and napkins smeared with good times residue,
you will find my heart, pale and shivering, cold,
frozen there with sorrowful beats, barely audible.
Day sends Night's mystique packing,
friends and all.

Copyright 2010 JO Jaanoski


After the Party - Andy Warhol

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Rainy Days


Rainy Days


Wind in hushed murmurs
makes my window curtains fly
while grasses tremble
and leaves turn under in fear.
In dark solitude
Birds' silent vigils commence 
awaiting the roar
of thunderous clouds screaming
to open rainy day storms.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Promise

The Promise

Loyalty in gold
with another sunrise comes
constant, like a smile
on a trusting baby's face,
the promise of each new day.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski


Monday, May 31, 2010

The Boy (Busted)

Eyes of worry,
those tiny dark universes,
hover over words
that clamor 
like horses at the gate
to be set free.
But he restrains them 
into orderly blocks.
Oh, so orderly,
with pauses in between,
such artful interludes,
each phrase thought out 
before spoken well
as though good diction
could save his soul.
It just might.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski


Saturday, May 29, 2010

He Was





He Was


He was a flute to my violin
lucid, clear, piping through
my wailful strumming
interrupting my discordant shrieks
with tones of wisdom.

He was thick, rich cream
smoothing my black coffee panic
making each gulp 
palatable and smooth
with his silky intonations.

And now, he's a ghost who hovers
lingers, whispers, warns
reminding me I'm whole at last
because now we speak freely.
Kindred spirits always do.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Emeralds of the Morn





Emeralds of the Morn

Leaves like emeralds 
glitter each day
rushed by God's benevolence
to quiver in excitement 
and glow in the light 
of early morning blessings
in His name.

Photo & Poem
Copyright 2010 JO Janoski





Monday, May 24, 2010

Reveille


Reveille

If starlight came wrapped in song
or soft winds rushed to murmur,
would it move my heart so much
as a tiny bird's reveille
outside my window?

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hovering


Little towns
with wide streets smiling
graced by tall trees hovering
over little secrets, tiny lies
whooshing through tall tree branches
like birds on the fly
out of hell.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Swimming Hole


The Swimming Hole

Mountains sing chorus
while breezes strum alto songs,
tones cradled in clouds.
Baptismal waters rushing
downward, pristine, clean
smoothing cliff sides, making love
in bubble rushes,
cleanse me, sooth me, sing out loud
sweet circling waters,
transmutation blues scream fest
spinning water ripples round.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski









Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Dog's Life


The Dog's Life
(A Perfect Day)


Walking green grass nature pathways
stopping to sip from velvet streams,
they cleanse, they cool, they make me stay
and rest perchance set free my dreams.
I hear his call or so it seems,
home to sleep in dogged pleasure
where cushioned comforts make more dreams,
happiness beyond all measure.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Sunday, May 02, 2010

I Spied a Violet


I Spied a Violet

I spied a violet 
as soft glowing sun
warmed its petals...
in green dewy grass
on a morning long ago...
which I consider
a miracle.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Promises

Promises

Sweet dream promises,
soaring on butterfly wings,
streaming clouds of hope.
I spy gracefulness at play
fluttering out of my reach.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rushing

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski


Do we dare to dream?


Rushing

Wrapped in winter's cloak
I shiver, wander, adrift
unknowing, 'til Light
brushes my cheek, rushes me
with warm fragrances of spring.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beyond


Beyond silhouetted trees, reaching, welcoming,
luminescent, pearly, rounded, grounded. 
Could you murmur like that Final Light speaks, inspires ... 
movement, seeking me like a chorus of angels, 
offering tributes, following me all day, quieting down when night falls,
all the while asking me to take unsung hymns to sleep  
and remember in my dreams.

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski



Sunday, April 11, 2010

To Bean or Not to Bean

A hot, dusty day, as hot and dusty as any Cook could remember, and he'd been traveling these parts all his life. They were camped along the river and its gentle waters cooled his fellow cowboys' overheated spirits as well as their smelly feet. And the trickling waters came in handy to clean Cooky's dirty pots. Such was the life of four travelers, a scruffy old collie ironically named Dusty, and an abandoned Conestoga wagon put to good use again.

"Cooky, that bean concoction last night was the worst damn thing ever found its way to a pot." The man speaking, Spencer, never liked the grub Cook made.

"Ah, take it easy, ya old goat." Enright, Spencer's best friend, chastised him, as was his habit.

"Shut up, Enright! I got enough gas boiling inside to kill me!"

"You kids quit fighting amongst yourselves!" Cook threw in. "I must admit beans can be pretty fretful, but it's all we have left. We can't get to Culver City soon enough to buy supplies."

Enright, a tall man, leaned back on his pack and stretched his long legs toward the fire. "When we get to Culver City, I'm gonna find me a woman, a real pretty woman!"

"You already got a woman!" The softer voice emanated from Belle who had just returned from the river after watering her horse. The task had taken its toll, saturating her pants from the knees down and leaving her boots slimed with mud.

"What woman?" Enright asked.

"Me!"

"You a woman? I hadn't noticed."

It was true. Belle rode and shot like a man.  Growing up with six brothers  taught her that. And yet, beneath that battered hat and baggy pants, she was gorgeous. Beautiful blond locks were squashed under a dusty Stetson and dirt smudged her clear bright-eyed face making it gray and weary.  Her beauty hidden, to the others she quickly became one of the guys.  She had found it wise to dress sloppy from the very start to assure they let her come along. A prissy girl would have no place on the trail, and she needed to get to Culver City by the earliest conveyance possible. The stagecoach didn't come through for another week. So she hitched a ride with this motley group. The lady was going to Culver City for a wedding, but that didn't mean a little fun along the way couldn't be enjoyed. And Enright, the cowboy, was one colossal perk. 

Dusty, the collie, rushed to her side, his tongue dangling and dripping, tail wagging, as though to let her know he appreciated her if no one else did. She stroked him, all the while studying Enright with quick little glances so he wouldn't notice.

"Damn beans!" Spencer said, rising and rushing from the camp. He disappeared into the nearby woods. 

"When we get to Culver City, I'm gonna get some decent food like rice and potatoes," Cook muttered, "Just so I don't get any more beans. Spencer is driving me nuts." Picking up Spencer's supper plate, he placed it near Dusty for the dog to finish. The pooch dug in.

Later that night as the four slept out under the stars and tucked under blankets, a howling from the woods woke Cooky first. He jumped up with a start, his heart pounding. At first, the moonlight confused him. He forgot he was out on the trail and expected to see his tidy little room above the bar at Smithton. The shriek was other-worldly, like a disembodied spook angry and prowling in the forest, fixing to bring death and torture to their midst at any moment. It pierced the ears and cut straight to the core.

"What the hell is that?" Enright asked as he stood next to the cook.

"I dunno. But it can't be good, I'm tellin' ya that!"

"What is that?" Belle asked, joining the other two.

"Spencer is not out there being sick again, is he?" Cooky asked. But a quick glance to the campfire revealed Spencer sleeping soundly. The guy snored and rolled over oblivious to the racket.

"That man could sleep through a train wreck," Enright said. But he was drowned out by the shrill noise again. The shriek was loud enough even he, a sizeable cowboy, trembled.

"Does it sound like it's getting closer?"  Belle asked. 

It was true. The howling was making concentric circles around the camp, each new circle bringing it closer to them.

"Do you think it might be vampires?" Cooky asked. His eyes were little pin points on a pale, empty face as though the rest of him had already up and left. 

"Vampires?"

"My people, they've always believed in them...legend." Cooky looked away in mid-sentence as the howling moved closer. He darted his eyes along the border to the woods. 

"I'm frightened!" Belle said, hugging Enright in spite of herself.  Her hat fell off in the process and released abundant lengths of hair to cascade down her back. 

"Darlin', don't worry," Enright said, pulling her close. 

A tiny smile graced her lips as she snuggled against his chest. Enright's fingers tangled in her cascading blond locks, and he looked confused.  Lifting his hand to run some strands through his fingers, his eyes widened.

The shriek again. It was getting closer. This time the trio jumped, startled out of their wits.

"Maybe we should hide in the wagon,"  Cooky said.

Enright would have none of it. He had a gorgeous woman in his arms. Now how would  it look to cut and run? It would look like a coward, that's what. "We stay right here," he declared. Belle's hair felt silky running through his fingers. But he pulled his hand free to get his gun ready, grasping it from his gun belt.

"Uh, if you say so." Cook look unconvinced.

Shriek! Roar! The creature came charging from the woods. Tan and brown, a blur to the eye as it ran at furious speed straight at them. Enright aimed.

But Belle suddenly stiffened. What happened next was worthy of legendary fame right up there with super-heroes and saintly men. She swirled and drop-kicked the gun out of Enright's hand with the speed and grace of a ninja. The startled cowboy stood looking at his empty palm. Cooky's eyes darted from the cowboy to Belle and back again as though trying to make sense of things. 

In the meanwhile, the creature barreled in,  stopping at their feet and commencing to lick Enright's boots. The frightening beast was Dusty, the collie! The animal looked up and with bewildered eyes released a toot and a cloud of flatulence that sent the others rushing back, covering their noses and coughing. 

"I shouldn't have fed him those beans!" Cooky declared between gasps. "Damn gas sent that dog screaming into the woods."

Enright and Belle barely heard his remarks which is the point of this story. Having fallen into each other's arms, they were off to the side smooching up a storm. And that, my friends, is how there came  to be a surprise double wedding in Culver City. And also why beans can be a good thing, bringing people together one way or the other, at camp outs and parties! And they're a good source of fiber, too. 

Copyright 2010 JO Janoski