All posts by markwaters01

The Parade and the KKK- (Circa 1972)

Port Summerville was as white as rice; meaning, hardly any folks of color lived there. Sure, we had our fair share of Mexicans and Vietnamese, but if you were a colored fellow in town, it was assumed you must of either been lost or passing through.

It was a strange year. Disco was coming alive, Nixon ended the Vietnam war, then we ended him. Blazing Saddles was a box office hit, and our youngest son was born. It was also the year that my dearest friend graduated. Jody was a few years younger than me and was like a little brother. We met when Darlene and I played bridge with his parents. We caught up with him a few years later and reminisced about his high school days. We attended his graduation, and after he received his diploma, told me that high school was the best six years of his life. Currently, he is serving his fifth term as a U.S. Senator.

I’m wasn’t particularly proud of this, but we had a local KKK chapter — sort of. It began when the founding club members, all of them friends or acquaintances, decided they wanted to start a club, which was more of an excuse to drink than socialize. Leslie was the first to bring up the KKK because he had a great-uncle who used to be a member.

As a kid, Leslie filtered out what he wanted to, and kept the memories of what he remembered was the fun stuff. I don’t think any of the organizers really understood who or what the KKK was or what they represented. What the group did know —  they didn’t want to be Rotarians, and the Masons didn’t allow blacks or Jews. He said when he was about eight-years-old, his uncle Chuck told the youngins’ stories about his club. Leslie told the other founders what he recalled. The other members surrounded him like kids at a campfire. With clear and focused eyes fixed on Leslie, he told them of his memories. Those fellows weren’t Rhodes Scholars, but a far cry from being complete fools, but on the other hand…

Leslie paced around with his arms wrapped around his chest, then he stopped and said, “I’ve been thinking and studying on this for a while. We need a club instead of hanging around every Friday night, not to mention the women folk are fed up too. We need a cause, and I think this is the one.” As eager as beavers, everyone sat on metal folding chairs in a semi-circle and zeroed in on every word Leslie spoke.

Hector, a Mexican national, stood up, and in his broken English, he asked Leslie, “What gives?”

Leslie continued to pace around, then stopped in place. “Well, boys, its’ called the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK for short, and call themselves a fraternal order, sounds sort of like a college deal, and we’d be like frat brothers.” Someone asked what a frat brother was. Leslie narrowly edged out the others as far as intelligence went; he made it to the tenth grade. So, with his over achievement, he used it to his advantage and improvised. “Those college boys use a lot of foreign words, I think frat is Latin for ‘frattis,’ meaning to drink and enjoy.” Most of these guys where shrimpers and deckhands on oyster boats, and I none of them had ever been to college, I doubted any of them could spell KKK, but that didn’t keep them from continuing the conversation.

Travis jumped out of his seat and said, “I like the sound of that!”

Hector said, “But don’t those frat boys grow up to be assholes? Tyler Smithfield went to college, and he was in a frat club, it was something like, I Felta Delta. A few of us know him, and he sure turned out to be an asshole.”

“I think Tyler went to one of those snooty colleges,” —  then Leslie tried his best Bostonian accent — “up in Baaston. We’ll worry about that later; I don’t think any of us can afford to be a snob.” Everyone laughed out loud, then Leslie told them how he thought the club worked and what they did. “These fellows get together all the time and hold meetings and such. My uncle invited my brothers and me to one of their family events. They share picnics with their families, march in parades, and you ready for this, Travis?”

Travis, the only black member, about fell out of his chair, and asked, “What is it, Leslie?”

Leslie threw both arms in the air with excitement. “They make home visits to black folks!”

“So, Leslie, what you’re telling us if you can’t come to the meeting, they’ll take the meeting to you?”

“Travis, it’s a whole lot bigger than that. I think more like a community outreach program. Guess what else? They call themselves ‘knights’”

Travis lowered and shook his head, almost in tears. “Just knights? More like knights in shining armor.”

Tuye, a Vietnamese refugee added, “What a bunch of neat guys, pardon me, Leslie, — I mean gentlemen.”

Adolf, the only Jew, said, “More like men among men. These are my kind of guys.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, then Tuye told Leslie he was worried they weren’t good enough. He told them they’ll just need to wait and see, then assured the others they’d be fair because that’s just the way they are. Leslie continued in a concerned tone. “And guys, we need to watch our language, they’re pretty religious and big into crosses.”

Travis commented, “They’re not only knights but saints too? This is too good to be true!”

Hector said, “Man-oh-man, Leslie. Travis is right. They sound like a bunch of nice fellows. I’m in.”

Tuye said he read somewhere they started a lot of their meetings with a bonfire. “Probably like a campfire to roast marshmallows and weenies for the kids.”

Leslie told them they also had a mascot. Not a lion or a bear either, but a dragon and not just any old dragon, — it was a grand dragon.

As giddy as school girls on prom night, they talked and giggled among themselves, then discussed the plans if they joined. Those fellows had no clue what they were getting mixed up with. Travis departed from the others and wandered to the other side of the room. After a few minutes of solitude, he returned and had a confession. He was worried about something, and the others asked him what the problem was. Travis clutched his hands together, and beads of sweat poured from his darkened brow. “I’ll just announce it to the world and be done with it. I don’t think the KKK will let me in.”

Hector asked Travis why? “I dropped out of high school. There, I said it.”

Leslie assured him they wouldn’t single him out because of that, because the KKK was bigger than that. With continued assurance from Leslie, he added, “I doubt any of this motley crew graduated Summa Cumma Lumma.” Again, everyone got a big laugh, and whatever concerns Travis had, was soon forgotten.

“If they let us join, we should invite them to Port Summerville. I’ll get Pearl to whip up a delicious meal.” Travis paused for a moment — “God I hope they let us in.” Leslie told the group more and more stories of his youth and all he could remember his uncle had told them. He recalled one evening his uncle had to leave and go to a blanket party.

Stanley, the only gay member, said, “Like a slumber party?”

“Not really, Stanley —  more of a get together for other members who are having problems.”

Leslie said he heard it too. I’ve met most of these fellows, but they didn’t have the brains God gave a gnat. A blanket party is a form of corporal punishment usually used in the military on other members for misdeeds or rule violations; the KKK used it too.

“But boys, this is the best part, you guys ready?”

Tuye said, “Come on Leslie. What is it? Don’t keep us in suspense!”

Leslie continued to taunt them, then asked again, “You really ready?”

“Yes, Leslie, tell us!” Leslie stood up, paused for a moment, threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, “They have costume parties all the time! Now Fellows, this is the one downside. They’re not creative as far as their attire goes. They always wear the same getup. It’s like a ghost outfit with a cone-looking hat. But who cares? They dress up for Halloween all year long.”

“I’ve heard enough! Let’s contact the national organization to see if they’ll approve us.”

“Good idea, Hector. I’ll get Wilma to write a letter right away. Boys, we’re on our way to getting some respect in this town.” Wilma, Leslie’s wife, filled out the paperwork, including a handwritten letter and provided the list of founding members as required. About a month later, the three got together to open a letter from national. The group met at Travis’s house and took a seat at his kitchen table.

“Well, fellows, this is it.” Leslie opened the letter. It was written on formal letterhead and was from the Imperial Klan’s of America. Their exuberance was deafened as Leslie read out loud.

Dear Sirs;

We regret to inform you that your membership has been denied. The founding organizers of your proposed chapter appear to be of questionable national origin. Because of our decision, you must discontinue using the initials KKK, its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.

Yours truly,

  1. Gordon Smith, attorney-at-law

All in attendance sat in shock, and not a word was spoken; Travis was spotted shedding a tear. The others shook their heads in disbelief. Hector was the first to break the silence. “Well guys, that’s that.”

“What a bunch of snobs,” Adolf said as he banged his head on the table.

Hector added, “We don’t need them anyway. We’ll continue on like we never heard of the stupid KKK.”

The sadness was so overwhelming, and Travis left the room telling the others he needed to be by himself, Adolf tagged along. Travis told Adolf that Leslie was probably to blame for the denial because he had a girl name. Adolf knew how upset Travis was, put his arm around him and promised him they will build an even bigger and better club. “We need to get back to the others. Stanley has been bawling for over an hour. I think the others are about to lynch him.” Adolf agreed, then the two went back to be with the others and worked on plan B.

***

Despite their rejection, the club roster grew, and membership expanded. The club included four more white guys, another Mexican, and one more Vietnamese. Buster, a friend of Stanley’s, and who is Canadian, wanted to be a member too. Leslie informed him that foreigners weren’t allowed. Tuye, the Vietnamese, took exception. “Leslie, where in the hell do you think me and Hector are from, — Maine?”

“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting.” and agreed with the consensus of the other members.

Buster’s membership was voted on and approved. Leslie performed a brief swearing-in ceremony. Buster was assigned to the finance committee. He had the duty of overseeing fifteen dollars and twenty-seven cents in the treasury, secured in the club safe; a coffee can. Stanley, a known fruit, congratulated Buster and gave him a hug and a kiss. Adolf whispered to Leslie, “That’s all we need; Canadian fruit.”

And last, but not least, to round off the club roster, was old man Steinberg’s oldest son, Adolf. I asked Mr. Steinberg why he named his son after such a madman? “John, did you ever read about Charles Manson?”

“Why, yes Ben, I have. Wasn’t he the one who had all those people hacked up including a lady movie star?”

Slightly irritated, he replied, “Yes John, that one. Now, should everyone who named his kid Charles to take it back because someone with the same name happens to be a crazed psychopath?”

“I guess not, Ben.”

“Besides, John, I named him after Adolf Hurwitz, the famous Jewish mathematician not that lunatic Hitler.”

Besides, John, I named him Adolphus, meaning ‘noble, majestic wolf,’ and nothing to do with that lunatic, Hitler. Those lamebrains he hangs out with shortened it, and now that is how he introduces himself. He’s as dumb as they are.

“Sorry Ben, I didn’t mean to offend.”

“None taken, John. Do you care for a bagel with schmear?”

“No thanks, Ben, I just ate, thank you, though.” I had no idea what a schmear was, and I wasn’t going to take any chances either. I couldn’t trust a man who won’t (doesn’t) eat bacon.

Back to the club. The first order of business was the club needed to figure out a new club name. They discussed several ideas, and nothing appealed to them, but they’ve got a new motto; If you can afford beer, you can join. No one in town took them in earnest. They were harmless, and the meeting was a gathering every Friday night at the Vietnamese church.

The meeting always began with a prayer and a shot of whiskey. After the prayer, usually led by Leslie, the clubs self-proclaimed leader, and always ended the prayer with, “We ask all of this in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Adolf was the only Jewish member of the club, and always objected to the Jesus Christ part, and every time he brought it up, Leslie apologized that included a hint of sarcasm and a touch of reverence. “Sorry Adolf, I keep forgetting you Jews are still waiting around for your Jesus.”

“Our Messiah, Leslie. The Messiah.”

Leslie rolled his eyes and whispered to himself, “Messiah, my ass,” then said, “You need to face the facts, Adolf, and get down on your hands and knees and accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior.” After the prayer and debate, they began the ritualistic drinking and playing, and I use the term loosely — music — all night long. When I said all night long, I mean all night long.

The band knew two songs, and the more they drank, the drunker they got, and the more intoxicated they became, the music turned deafening. Adolf played lead tambourine and the bongos, Stanley, the piccolo. No one thought a piccolo worked, but to keep him happy, they let him join in. Everyone else played guitar. Later in the evening while the others laid around passed out, and when you thought the music was over, whoever oversaw the bass guitar performed a solo that lasted about an hour. After the others regained consciousness, they played the whole thing again from the top. Now that’s entertainment.

The town leaders stood proud of their minority statistics, and furthest down the list were Jews, and fewer of them lived in Port Summerville than any other group. They kept to themselves and stayed out of sight, — by choice. The tourist bureau considered them a novelty, and in their words, “an important contribution to the tourism industry in Port Summerville.” They owned a few of the gift shops, and another had the only jewelry store.

The closest thing to a synagogue in Port Summerville was Ben Steinberg’s back porch. Every week on the Sabbath, a few of the town Jew’s gathered, told stories and prayed. They ate a kosher barbecue dinner, got smashed, shouted out a couple of Shaloms’, and that was the worship scene of our Jewish community. I was proud to be part Jew, not much, but enough to get my feathers ruffled when told a Jew jokes, but not enough to go to Ben’s synagogue.  — besides, I think I’m a Presbyterian.

To keep up with the times and be more progressive, Port Summerville extended the hand of friendship to both the gay and black communities. No one could explain this, not even the Chamber of Commerce, but Port Summerville was a “fruit basket magnet,” and they usually showed up in pairs. The black population, though small, continued to expand in numbers. They came here to find work at the shipyard or laborers in the surrounding cities and suburbs, or as I stated before, — either lost or just passing through.

Bill, watch for continuity between the different meeting places, there is some back and forth movement, from a meeting room to the hall, etc.

Darlene served on the parade organizing committee. They’re not an official city government committee, just a group of busybodies that had nothing better to do. Their task was limited to the organizing of the annual parades every year, such as the Christmas and Shrimp Festival parade, and a handful of others. The parade organizing committee met once a quarter by the same crowd of attendees and the same agenda. Every year the organizers got their parades rubber-stamped by the committee, afterward passed on for final approval from the permits department at City Hall. Blacks organized events all over the country, mostly Juneteenth celebrations and equal rights marches. So, a few self-appointed black leaders thought Port Summerville needed a parade too. The gay community got wind of this and wanted one also. I had my version of what a gay parade might look like, but taking Darlene’s advice, kept my mouth shut.

Perhaps a coincidence, but when the committee got together for their quarterly meeting, the two groups showed up at the same time with their representatives; Travis and Stanley. Now things got complicated. As you already know, Travis, was a black guy and a founding member of the club along with Leslie and the others but had his loyalties challenged by other black leaders. Stanley, also a founding member, but despite his club affiliation with his fellow comrades, felt he needed to represent the gay community.

Though still club brothers, both realigned their loyalties temporarily for the sake of their respective constituency. The two leaders did their research, and made their pitch to the committee, but knew of the limited resources Port Summerville had for parades. Travis and Stanley knew they were virtual outcasts, and decided it would be best to be as one. They joined forces and shared their limited funds for a parade, but still needed approval from the committee.

Collectively, they had enough money for a permit and a banner, then volunteers did the rest. Since both groups shared a similar rainbow design in their logo, the idea for a banner was easy. All they needed was a parade name. I told you it was complicated, then things got ridiculous. Adolf Steinberg busted into the meeting and said his group, the original club, wanted a parade too. The problem was, his group had no money, except whatever was in the safe. He insisted meeting the other two and see if they could work together making this the country’s first; a pseudo-KKK group, blacks, and gays coming together for a single parade event. Darlene, who was chairman of the committee, threw her hands up in the air and asked Adolf if he was aware of what the KKK was and what it stood for. “Leslie’s uncle said they were a fraternal order. We figured it was sort of a college deal —  like a fraternity.”

Darlene added, “Have you boys been living under a rock all your life?”

Travis defended Adolf and said, “What gives, Darlene? What are you trying to say?”

“Travis, you of all people should know.”

“Know what, Darlene?” Travis got his feathers ruffled, and as he put it, about to go all Negro on Darlene.

“You must think I’m just some dumb ole’ colored boy, don’t you Miss Darlene?”

“Travis, how long have we been friends?”

Travis, slightly taken aback said, “A few years, I suppose.”

In a scolding tone, she said, “Travis, I want you to take this in the spirit in which it is intended —  shut up.”

“Yes ma’am, I mean Darlene.”

Darlene continued, “All I was trying to say is that the KKK and all that it represents…” she paused for a moment, then conceded, and replied, “Never mind Travis. I must be thinking of something else.” Travis explained to the committee they had been denied membership but decided they would continue to follow, and I quote: “The KKK’s guiding principles.”

“Very sweet, Travis,” then she whispered to another committee member. “How can a group of adult men be so naïve?”

The other whispered back, “Or stupid. I don’t think this bunch is aware we’ve been to the moon.” Then she silently exclaimed, “Hell, Adolf thinks it’s a planet.”

Darlene responded with another whisper, “Or that a microwave isn’t just a coffee warmer.”

The other replied, “Or what one is.” Both snickered. Darlene called for a recess so the committee members could meet for a brief conference about the matter.

Adolf, Stanley, and Travis headed out to the hall and sat on a nearby bench. Travis stood beside the bench where Stanley and Travis sat. “Stanley, I’ve been doing some checking. I didn’t want to bring it up in the meeting, but I think Darlene may be on to something about the KKK.”

“What’s wrong Travis?”

In a serious tone, Travis said, “I think maybe it’s because of you they denied our membership in the KKK.”

A bit irritated, Stanley countered. “Is it because I’m white?” Adolf and Travis looked at each other in amazement.

“No, Stanley, not because you are white.”

Now concerned, Stanley said, “Oh my God, — is it because I’m a Unitarian! They’re afraid that my religious beliefs will influence them.”

“No Stanley, that isn’t it.”

Stanley paused and said, “Then, what is it, sweetie?”

Again, Adolf and Travis just looked at each other. Travis didn’t want to tell him what he thought the real reason was and hurt Stanley’s feelings. To end the conversation, Travis thought on his feet and said, “You need to be at least twenty-four to join. You’re too young.”

That was satisfactory enough for Stanley. The meeting was called back to order, and Darlene invited the three back inside. Darlene told them if they could work out the details, she and the committee sent the paperwork along for approval. Travis let Darlene know that he and the others wouldn’t let them down. Darlene’s final comment was, “I don’t know how you could. Good luck.”

I told you Port Summerville was weird, and as the saying goes, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” and necessity applied here, and a lot of it.

The committee had other business to attend to and asked Travis, Stanley, and Adolf to discuss their plans for the parade in a room across the hall. During the meeting, Travis, the representative for the black delegation, told Adolf they’ve got a lot to cover. Although Travis was still loyal to the club, he knew they needed to tone down anything that looked or smelled like the KKK. “I’m not sure why, but the committee seems to have a problem with it, so try to come up with something else.”

Adolf replied, “We’ll think of something Travis, you’ve got my word.” Adolf was still reeling because of the denial from national, and said in a pout, “Besides, we can’t use those letters anyways. Ya’ll remember?” Then doing air-quotes, said, “And its symbols, trademarks or service marks, forthwith.”

It was much too early in their meeting for emotions to flare, but they did. Stanley, who represented the gay community, was almost in tears and silently yelled, “And for God’s sakes, no hoods or those pajama things either! Their outfits are tacky!”

Adolf, a little put off replied, “Their outfits? What happened to ‘our’ outfits, Stanley? And when did you get so hoity-toity? They are costumes, and you know it. What gives Stanley, you’re a member too.”

“Not anymore, Travis said I’m too young. Anyway, my new friends need help with the parade —”, then he stuck out his tongue and said — “so there.”

Travis tried to get both of them back on track.  “Adolf, are we clear about the getup?”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson.”

“Shut up, Adolf. Can’t we all just get along?”

In a pout, Stanley said, “If we don’t figure something out, they’ll ruin the parade for everyone!”

In a hushed voice, Adolf said, aimed in the direction of the committee, “And they’d never forgive us.”

Stanley was crying and said he was upset and needed a hug. Adolf patted him on the back. “There, there.” Adolf continued to do his best to comfort Stanley and told him they’d figure something out. Adolf also assured the two; no hoods or robes either. It didn’t matter —  they couldn’t afford them. They decided to wear blue jeans and a nice shirt.

Stanley added, “With a scarf?” Adolf turned to Travis, and silently told him he thought the scarf should be reserved for his bunch. Keep in mind, the committee members gathered across the hall about twenty feet away and heard most of the conversation, — in astonishment.

The committee members adjourned, and left the room, except our three organizers. Towards the end of their meeting, they discussed the menu for the picnic. “My group will bring the fried chicken and malt liquor.”

Stanley, the gay rep, jumped to his feet and said, “Isn’t that a bit stereotypical, Travis?”

“What do you mean, Stanley?”

Stanley leaned in toward Travis, and in a whisper, said, “You know….”

“Know what?”

Stanley responded, “Fried chicken and malt liquor.”

Travis asked, “Don’t you like fried chicken, Stanley?”

And in a huff, Stanley said, “Well yes, I do, but I prefer mine baked with sautéed mushrooms in a cream sherry sauce.”

Travis ignored him and asked Adolf, “What will you and your bunch be bringing to the picnic?”

“We’ll get our old ladies to whip up some hot dogs and Collard greens.”

“Travis, did you hear him? He said collard greens!”

“Stanley, what’s your beef? My people don’t control all the food groups.”

“Travis, those idiots don’t eat Collard greens. He’s making fun of you.”

“Stanley, don’t go getting yourself all in an uproar. Honkies like collard greens too. I don’t, and Wilma says they stink up the house.”

Then, Adolf jumped to his feet and headed toward Travis. Tension filled the air as these two exchanged insults. “Honkies? Since when did you go all black on us?” Adolf exclaimed.

“Gee whiz, Adolf, I don’t know, maybe because I’m black.”

“Sorry Travis, I forgot.” Back to the fight. The two were eyeball-to-eyeball, both sets of fists raised and ready to brawl.

Stanley jumped in between the two and pushed them apart, then said, “Now Travis, you apologize to Adolf for calling him that name.”

Travis gave a reluctant apology. Adolf not too accepting of the apology, replied, “No prob, cuz.” That was the best Travis could muster for an apology. Sure was a lot of apologizing going on during the meeting, but it had to be expected. The two returned to their respective corners.

Stanley briefly took sides with Travis and whispered, “He is such a male.”

Adolf overheard his comment and said, “OK, fruit pants, what will you girls be bringing?”

“Adolf, I’ll sashay me and my fruit pants over there and slap the shit out of you.” Now Travis had to intervene with these two.

“It’s time for you boys to settle down. This bickering will get us nowhere. Adolf, now it’s your turn —  apologize to Stanley.”

Stanley has worked his way into a full-blown tizzy. “I won’t accept an apology from that baboon.” Stanley crossed his arms and turned his back away and said, “Travis you tell him, I’m not speaking to that cretin.” Stanley kept his arms crossed in protest followed by more pouting, and a foot stomp.

Adolf tried his best for a sincere apology and said, “Come on Stanley, I was kidding around. I’m soooo sorry. Let’s start over. Now, what will you and your friends be bringing to the picnic?”

Stanley rebounded from his fit, and with giddiness in his voice, said, “Thank you, Adolf. Well, my friends and I will be serving delicious, individual quiche tarts with a fresh rose petal salad.” Adolf and Travis looked at each other with a confused look on their faces.

Travis asked, “Stanley — I’m dying to know, what beverages you will bring?”

“Pink Ladies and Daiquiris, you silly.” Again, Adolf and Travis looked at each other, but this time instead of amazement, it was more like shock. They were speechless.

Adolf aware of his sensitive nature, gently asked, “Stanley, now what exactly is a Pink Lady? I know what a Daiquiri is, I’m just not too familiar with the other one.”

Stanley got all excited and gave the ingredients for a Pink Lady. “It has a little of this, and a little of that, with an egg white, all shaken up, all topped with a sweet red cherry. Yummy!”

Adolf turned to Travis and whispered, “Sounds more like fruit punch.”

Travis warned him in a low tone and said, “I’d be careful, Adolf, that ‘slap-the-shit-out-of- you’ was only a starter; he’s a black belt in karate.”

Stanley overheard the conversation and again said in a huff, “We don’t have to be such barbarians. Someone must add some civility to this event. You two are such simpletons.”

Travis turned to Adolf, and in an uppity tone said, “Why, my dear Adolf, I do believe we’ve been insulted.”

Adolf, in a similar tone, said, “I concur, Travis, there does appear to be a bit of an attitude.” Stanley smiled. The three tried to be as quiet as they could in their little piece of the meeting room. The committee members heard them laughing when they entered and rejoined the meeting. Everything was peaceful once again. The other members reconvened, and after about an hour-long discussion, Travis, Adolf, and Stanley stood and announced they had an idea to incorporate the three groups and align their collaborative efforts.

No one thought it could ever happen, but Adolf and his group, stood side-by-side in complete solidarity with the black and gay community, and together they created Port Summerville’s first annual TripleK-Blayday Parade. Triple K for apparent reasons, then black and gay shortened to form the word, Blay. Darlene comment was short. “This ought to be interesting.”

Another benefit of the meeting, Adolf, and his organization came up with a name and proudly introduced the newest club in Port Summerville; the TripleK Klub. Club was spelled using a K instead of a C because Stanley thought switching them would be cute. The one detail to work out was incorporating the three groups’ logos onto the same banner. Travis told the committee, “We’re way ahead of you.”

The three sketched out a design they agreed on and decided the banner. It included a rainbow design on the left, another one on the right, and a Confederate flag in the middle. Stanley and his new friend, Buster, the gay Canadian, volunteered to embroider a flower and peace symbol in the center of the Confederate flag. They flipped a coin to see who would carry the banner and lead the parade. A few days later, a permit was issued, and the parade date was set, then sent the invitations out to other participants. The two holdouts were the mayor and the sheriff, at least for the time being.

***

The mayor and the sheriff had a private meeting to discuss the matter, then after a brief conversation on other city matters and idle chit-chat, the mayor said, “Sheriff, I’ve got a real problem with this parade thing.”

Miles, the Sheriff, agreed. “I know what you mean. You’re in quite a pickle. If you don’t go, the blacks will think you’re a bigot.”

“I know what you mean, but if I go, the anti-gay bunch will crawl up my ass.”

The sheriff, a bit shocked, looked at him and said, “They’ll do what?”

“You know what I mean. What in the hell goes on in that head of yours?”

“Sorry, your Excellency.”

Not amused, the mayor continued. “My sister should’ve cut your balls off years ago. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Another group to worry about if I don’t go, are those knuckleheads. They’ll think I’m anti-white.”

“But you are white.”

“I know that, dumb-ass.” The mayor fidgeted in his chair and tapped his pencil on the table. He lit up a Camel, then continued. “I’m in one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenarios.” The mayor got up from his chair and paced around, taking several back-to-back puffs of his cigarette. “You don’t have to go. You can use that,” then using air-quotes, said, “I’m too busy upholding the law bullshit.” He paused again, then said in a panic, “I’ve got nothing!”

“Don’t worry Mayor, we’ll think of something.” Then the sheriff threw both arms in the air and said, “I’ve got it! Send a representative from your office.”

“What are you talking about? There isn’t anyone. This is the kind of shit I’m supposed to do.” The mayor sat back down and took a few more drags from his cigarette. He tapped his pen on his desk then said, “Maybe if I sit on the float with the queen…”

The sheriff interrupted, exclaimed and said, “Are you crazy? They’ll think you’re a queer.”

“Not their queen, dumb shit. The black queen. They elected their own queen for the parade, you moron.” He got back up from his chair and continued to pace again. The mayor stopped his pacing and said, “That’s it! I’ll sit on the float with her. That’s my best bet and will neutralize my position and show the community how open-minded I am. It will also distance me from the you-know-whos without seeming too obvious. That should soften the blow.” The sheriff took a step back and stared at him. The mayor saw the stupid look on the sheriff’s face after the “soften the blow” comment. “Miles, get your head out of the gutter.”

“You’re the one talking dirty.” They both laughed, even though the mayor was feeling pressured. “Mayor, I think you’ve got a handle on the situation. This will demonstrate real political strength. You’re a real problem solver, Harry. I guess that’s why they elected you mayor.”

“Damn straight. Call me ‘Mayor Fix It’; ‘The problemater.’ Miles, go tell Bertha to notify the press.” Miles left the room, and the mayor sat back down, then kicked his feet up on his desk. Feeling slightly relieved at his decision, he took a final couple of drags off his cigarette, then stomped the remaining butt on the floor, then though, “All in a day’s work.” He left the building and got a massage.

The invitations went out, and the Shriner’s headed the list. Shriner’s only needed to hear the word parade and gladly accepted the offer to participate. They could care-a-less about the theme. The only criteria were to have plenty of beer for them and gasoline for their mini-bikes.

Seizing the opportunity for votes, every politician in Port Summerville and the surrounding county took part as well. Not wanting to be left out of this historical event, Miss Shrimp showed up too, along with her entourage of ladies-in-waiting. You’d think Miss Shrimp would have been a knockout, — not in this case. You got the title of Miss Shrimp by winning the shrimp eating contest. She was fat and obnoxious and chain-smoked. The ladies-in-waiting were well-known town sluts.

The mayor, satisfied with his tactical decision, attended the parade, but in a last-minute mix-up, he rode in the I’m Queer, and I’m Here float and sat by their queen. She was a six foot, four-inch transvestite named Kelsey. They’ve been secretly dating ever since.

***

There was this one Port Summerville cop, I won’t name any names, but his initials were Officer Kent Dorf. It was rumored Officer Dorf was a fruit, and everything pointed in that direction and had been chasing around after Brad for years. Too bad, Brad was straight as an arrow, but he still dreamed someday the two would be in each other’s arms. Fat chance, cream puff. Dorf begged the parade committee to let him oversee crowd control and security. I think he wanted to be a parade participant with Stanley’s bunch but didn’t want to get found out, — in other words, he wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Coming out of the closet was a new term cupcakes used when they wanted to tell the world of their fruitiness. I was still bugged that all the special groups hijacked words and phrases, like coming out of the closet. It did nothing but complicate my life. Because Darlene was way ahead of her time, knew what the expression meant and selfishly kept it to herself, and reserved that knowledge to screw with me. One day I was getting a pair of jeans out of the closet. She knew damn well where I was, but choose to taunt me instead. She seized the opportunity, asked where I was, and I yelled, “I’m in the closet!” She laughed, and I hollered back, “What’s so funny? I’m just in the closet.”

Still laughing, “When will you be coming out of the closet?” Now, she’s being perverted.

“I’ll be out of the closet in a minute.” She fell to the floor with laughter and rolled all around, and continued laughing all the while. I never went into or came out of the closet again. She’s was such a jerk, and so, if I needed anything, she had to get it. I guess her humor backfired.

After the news of the parade hit the papers, the story spread like wildfire and went nationwide. The day of the event, everyone was excited. The parade route filled, mostly spectators and curiosity seekers. Then the media showed up that included all the major television news organizations; ABC, NBC, and CBS, plus a few newspaper reporters and magazine writers. Life Magazine’s photographer was going through rolls of film as fast as he could reload his camera.

Before the parade, we had opening speeches by the mayor, a couple of city councilmen, and a statement by Miss Shrimp welcoming everyone. A few weeks after the parade, Miss Shrimp will surrender her crown but already had a new one by winning the belching contest at the VFW. We wished her well in her continued conquest for excellence.

Everyone that worked the fairgrounds made final preparations for the picnic, and that is when the trouble began to brew. The parade received national media attention. Others noticed as well, including The Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and another uninvited guest was a new group of nuts; The National Alliance. They got word the Klan wasn’t going to attend, and because they were a new organization, thought an opportunity to get in front of the camera would help spread their message, and it did. A few were arrested for public intoxication; most arrived drunk. The KKK didn’t show up for reasons still unknown. The scuttlebutt was they thought the climate was too hot, and I quote, “The town itself smelled of fish.”

The first two organizations, as a rule, remained peaceful and promoted their own causes. This new bunch of idiots only hated. They made the KKK look like a church choir. None of the planners or participants knew why the parade got the attention of the outsiders but threw it all, Travis… a black guy, Stanley… a gay guy, and Adolf… a Jew, all with the combined IQ of a brick, pulled it off. They had the tenacity to organize a function like the TripleK-BlayDay parade despite their perceived differences and was reason enough for those outsiders to come and stir things up.

The parade completed its route and reached the fairgrounds. The kids played on the beach and their parents along with other adults socialized and mingled. Color of skin and other stereotypes got tossed out the window, and everyone was having fun until a bullhorn blasted by the leader of the National Alliance. “White Power! We’re white, and we’re right!”

It wasn’t their usual style of doing things, but a needed response came from the NAACP representative. He took the bullhorn away from him and yelled, “Black Power! Black Power! Black Power!”

Not wanting to be left out, the ADL, the Jewish representative grabbed the bullhorn and yelled out an enthusiastic, “Go Jews!” He only said it once. No one heard that chant before, but he got caught up in the moment, and wanted to come up with something clever, but couldn’t think of a word that rhymed with Jew.

Our three heroes had heard enough, then jumped on the stage. Travis took the bullhorn and invited everyone to sing, “We Shall Overcome.” The crowd held their arms up and outstretched and sang along. Some swayed back and forth with the rhythm of the song. Then it was Adolf’s turn to sing his selection; “Die Fahne Hoch,” which meant, “The Flag on High.” Like a rock star, held fast to the bullhorn, and invited everyone to sing along, then blasted through the bullhorn, “Everyone, sing with me!” Adolf started to sing, but no one knew the words, so he wound up doing a solo. After he finished the song, and as a sign of support, Travis went up to Adolf with his right hand held high. Adolf had a confused look on his face but did the same, and both gave each other a loud clap for Adolf’s performance, and it was at that moment the high-five was invented. The two left the stage, then Stanley and his troupe ran on the platform and belted out a rendition of West Side Story’s, I feel Pretty.

After the performances, and in a show of solidarity between the three, all in attendance held hands and sang God Bless America. It was a picture-perfect moment. During the hand holding part, instead of the usual boy/girl, girl/boy set up, it was more like black guy/white girl, gay guy/ black girl, white guy/gay guy. You get my drift. They used an occasional Mexican and a few Vietnamese to fill in the gaps. When the hand holding was completed, they made a full human circle around the entire fairgrounds. Disgusted, the three groups of intruders got back on their buses and left. The media was not far behind. The Life Magazine photographer passed out, and in a statement from the magazine, they claimed the photographer was overcome with heat exhaustion. The truth was, he had one too many Pink Ladies.

After all the festivities came to an end, Travis, Adolf, and Stanley had a few moments alone and congratulated each other for a job well done. Adolf said to the other two, “We still on for Friday night down at the church?”

Travis replied, “Damn straight. We’re still brothers in the Triple K Klub.”

Stanley stepped in, “Goodie! This is my week to bring snacks. It’ll be a surprise. Can I come, Adolf?”

“Stanley, you’re a brother and always will be. Of course, you can come, we’ll give you an age waiver to stay a member.”

“Yippee!” Then he kissed Adolf right on the mouth.

After Adolf got over the shock, Travis was overheard saying, “Can’t wait for the surprise. Probably more Quiche.” Travis crossed his arms and grinned and asked Adolf if Stanley was a good kisser? “Shut up, Travis, and don’t tell the other guys.”

“I won’t, I promise.” The two parted ways to mingle with the crowd. As Travis walked away, Adolf heard him chanting something. “Stanley and Adolf sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes…,”

“Cut it out, Travis! I’ll get you!”

As it turned out, the TripleK-BlayDay parade was the most celebrated parade Port Summerville had ever hosted. Though a success, it was the first and last TripleK-BlayDay parade.

I can’t get enough of this.

 

Epilogue- by Carla Michale Clark

Childhood is supposed to be carefree, innocent and filled with an abundance of love. Nothing is free, but in the long-run, being a kid is expected to be made that way —if you were one of the fortunate ones.

There are many of us out there who can concur that their life started out much like Clair’s —chaotic, frightening and immersed in utter pandemonium. What a great way to start life —I do not think so. It dictates the path we choose in our existence —how we feel and treat ourselves and others.

While editing Suicide by Death, I grew increasingly tied to the main character, Clair. I know editors are not supposed to get involved with the ‘players’, but I did. It turns out Clair and I have a lot in common —and I became her passionate advocate —her mirror image so to speak. There were times I wanted to step inside Clair’s world and protect her, do a little physical damage to those who caused her so much pain and angst. It tore open personal wounds, which I thought were dealt with long ago. I realize now there are scars that can still bleed; sometimes profusely. You can attain all the counseling you want, but they are still there corked down so deeply that when they surface, you want to scream or do something irrational to quell the anger and bitterness built up within ourselves.

The first example in our lives is our family. If you cannot trust them to love and support you, then who can you trust? Inevitably, we end up attracting or being attracted to the same toxicity throughout the rest of our lives. We learned it when our early years were full of emotional insanity — and think we are moving forward, all the while we go through the motions and try to discover what love really is. All of us know how to spell it, but what is it in the real sense of the word? If we do not have positive examples of a functional start in life, it is hit and miss —and most times a miss.

When innocence is taken from us so early in life, it becomes an awkward jigsaw puzzle of choices, like pulling a rabbit out of an arena full of hats. Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes not, and it is usually the ‘not’ that is the winner in the quest for happiness and self-awareness. One can move on and catch whatever prism as it shines its light on you. Nevertheless, the damage is there to stay. It is what we do with it that counts.

People like Clair would look at a relationship and ask, “If he likes me, there must be something wrong with him.” I call it the “Damaged Goods Syndrome.” We feel we are undeserving of love or happiness. It was beaten into us subtly so early on. Too many times it is unsalvageable. It is the hamster wheel that keeps on spinning. In the end, the lucky ones survive and have content lives. Sure, we can continue wandering down a path of self-destruction and self-loathing and hope for the best, or let nature take its course and take what you get. Sometimes you win — sometimes you do not.

As I read through the book, I found myself re-gluing myself emotionally back together in small ways, but they all added up. “If Clair can do it, so can I.” I can honestly say after closing the book, I felt different somehow. I saw my own demons in a different light as Clair did. Things did not seem so hopeless any longer, and I’ve been looking for it my entire life. Sometimes it takes that one person to point the way, and in creating the characters in Suicide by Death, I want to thank Mark for brilliantly assembling some sort of sanity out of the emotional rubble for me.

Quite honestly, I will miss Clair. I wish her the best.

Carla Michale Clark

 

 

Mirror, mirror…

Chapter X

Clair had more bouts with anxiety and called Glenn many times when she was down. The last phone chat with her, he suggested she attends one of his outpatient programs. During the conversation, Clair told him she wanted to toss out the prescribed pills and face her life head on without interference. Glenn suggested talking to her doctor first.

The group members gathered twice a week in a small, dimly lit room at the treatment center. It had stark, clinical white walls, and the ceiling painted a hideous shade of green, like watery pea soup, and the whole place smelled of disinfectant. On the walls hung the typical trappings: a framed copy of The Serenity Prayer, the AA symbol, and a large, full color poster of a unicorn. The chairs were lined up in a semi-circle; the furthest one was against a wall in a windowless room, and that is where Clair sat —smack dab in the middle. Glenn was positioned in the center, facing the rest of the attendees and straight across from Clair about ten feet away.

After weeks and a dozen meetings, she zeroed in about what her life meant to her, focusing on the past. She was always mindful of what Suerenia wrote in her book about letting go of her demons and those thoughts that haunted her, but this time in a pleasant way.

“It’s all under control.”

There were ten in the group including Glenn. He began the session with a brief, “So how are you folks doing today?”

And like little smart-ass elementary students, they replied in unison, “Very well, teacher.”

Counselors are trained ‘ignorers,’ except for those things that matter, and not much seems to get under their skin. They are more like trained seals, but Clair liked Glenn. He was a quiet man and an excellent therapist, but when you get him going —he’s like a dog on a bone.

“Before we get started today, we have a little business to discuss. Clair, I understand you and Hunter raided a sex addict meeting.”

“So.”

“How appropriate is it to ask the group,” —then looking at his notes — “who wants to relapse?”

“It was fun,” she said with a hint of nervousness.

“Could you two please entertain yourselves with something else, like maybe go to a zoo?”

“You mean like this place?”

“Very amusing, Clair. And while you’re at it, please stop referring to the codependent patients as —” he does a quick scan of his notes again — “let me see here…, oh yes, ‘those poor sick, half-crazed bastards.’”

Embarrassed, she again let out a nervous giggle.

“Well, they are. They can’t breathe in and out without approval.”

Suerenia was always quiet and reserved but had something to say.

“Clair, how can you be so judgmental? I’m sorry, but you’re not here because you are the poster child for mental stability.”

Clair said nothing because she knew Suerenia was right.

Glenn sat and listened to Suerenia with approval, then said to Clair, “Do me a favor, keep your insults to yourself and leave the other groups alone. They have their struggles just like you. One more thing, Larry, I heard about your cousin. You have my sincerest condolence.”

Lisa asked, “What happened?”

“My cousin, Earnest passed away.”

Lauren responded, “That’s terrible!”

Glenn got up from his chair, walked over to Larry and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. He responded with compassion and soft-spoken words.

“Larry, I am sorry your cousin died, but that’s not passing away —he got shot. Knowing the difference will help you in the grieving process.”

He knew of the circumstances involved in his death and aware he was killed during a rival gang confrontation. Glenn returned to his seat to finish the conversation.

“It tickles me — not in a rude way, but some confuse the term. The same thing with a suicide. I’d hear the same rhetoric that, so-and-so passed away when I knew damn well they killed themselves.”

Clair jumped to her feet.

“How can you be so cruel?”

“Cruel? I’m just stating the facts. Again, suicide is not passing away —one got gunned down, and the other one blew their damn brains out! Mostly they are decisions. One was at the wrong place at the wrong time, the other decided to ‘check out’ on their own.”

Clair sat down and muttered, “Semantics.”

“No, Clair, it isn’t. Passing away is something you do in your sleep or drop dead because of a heart attack or extended illness… that’s passing away. It’s nature’s way of saying it’s time to slow down.”

Blake commented, “Yeah, way down,”

Glenn glanced at the clock.

“Any questions or comments?”

“I have one.”

“Yes, what is it, Clair?”

“Glenn, you’re an idiot.”

“Thank you, Clair. I will take it under advisement. Alrighty then, enough of that. Let’s get started. Who wants to go first?”

There was silence.

“Clair, we’ll start with you.”

“Why me? What did I do? You’re just mad at me; besides, today is my birthday —the big two-eight.”

“I’ll address each. First off, I run the group, not you. Second, I didn’t suggest you did anything. Third, I don’t get mad, and by the way, happy birthday. Do you want us to sing you a song?”

“I’m good, I have the album. I’ll play it later. Start with Larry, he’s the most fucked up one in the room.”

“That’s not very nice, now is it?”

“Clair’s right. I am the most fucked up.”

Everyone in the room burst out laughing, including Larry, and not his usual style… Glenn did too, then got the group to refocus.

“All right folks, let’s get serious. So, Larry, why don’t you lead us off and tell us how your day has been going so far.”

He told the others’ how good he’d been dealing with his anger and reported he hadn’t hit anyone today.

Not his usual style but Glenn said with a hint of sarcasm, “We’re very grateful, Larry. Keep up the good work.”

The group members let out an enthusiastic applause. Larry stood up and took a bow.

At receiving such accolades, he smiled and said, “I also haven’t thought about cutting off my mother’s head or stabbing the rest of my family to death either.”

That didn’t get an applause, only silence and stares, but it didn’t stop Glenn and remained professional with his continued comment.

“Larry, that is also something to be proud of.”

Glenn pretended to take a note and whispered to himself, “Psycho.”

Glenn got back to being the skilled therapist and added, “Larry, so you know, the gash on the janitor’s face is healing quite nicely. He’s able to eat solid food again.”

“I said I was sorry. Did he get my card?”

“Yes, he did. It was very thoughtful. Clair, you’re next. How was your day?”

Slumped and relaxed in her seat, responded, “Fine.”

Glenn leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.

“Fine? Okay, group, we all know what that means, don’t we?”

After the question, they chanted, “Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional!”

Not amused, she responded, “Ha, ha, ha. That’s hysterical. I’m all right. Thanks for asking. Can we please move this thing along?”

“What a great idea.”

Glenn gazed around at the others, then looked at Clair.

“I want to ask you a question.”

Still slumped in her chair, said, “Shoot.”

Larry jumped out of his chair and exclaimed, “Shoot who?”

Mike, another one of the group members, said, “It’s an expression. It means I’m giving you permission to proceed. So, sit your fat ass down and shut up!”

Larry complied, but also made a gesture with his pointer and middle finger, aimed at his eyes, and motioned in return with the implication, “I’m watching you.”

Mike looked at him and shook his head.

“Larry, go to hell.”

“Okay, fellows, let’s keep the testosterone to a manageable level. Let’s get started again, and can we try it with no more interruptions? Clair?”

She stood up at attention and saluted.

“Yes, Comrade Counselor?”

The room erupted with slight laughter.

“Please sit down.”

“Ya Vol, Mein Fuhrer!”

Obeying his command, she sat down and again slumped in her chair, but now both feet were kicked straight out, rigid and crossed.

Glenn wasted no time, remained poised, and got straight to it.

“Clair, I want to ask you a question; who are your demons?”

Pondering the question, she replied, “I don’t know, maybe the boogeyman.”

More chuckles from the participants, but it gave her a moment of pause, remembering back when Edward said it to her.

He repeated the question, implying he would not settle for another smart-ass answer.

“Clair, who are your demons?”

There was a hushed silent in the room, and every eye was on her. She acted as though she didn’t hear the question this time. To add to her posture, her arms were now tightly squeezed across her chest.

Still calm, and without changes in his tone, Glenn asked again, “Who are your demons?”

She remained in her defensive stance —but now her arms grew tighter, legs remained outstretched… also crossed, and added a hint of nervous foot twitching.

“Clair, I asked you a question.”

She swelled up inside and was about to burst wide open, but managed a calm, chilled retort.

“Back off, Glenn.”

“Who are your demons?” he asked again.

Now less calm, she said, “I swear to God, you are really starting to irritate me.”

“Clair, I can’t make you feel anything. It belongs to you.”

“You’re right, you can’t. But, you can stick that therapy shit up your ass, because right now, you’re pissing me off!”

Glenn remained poised.

“Clair, please stay focused and answer the question.”

She sat up and uncrossed her feet and planted them on the floor. And with outstretched arms, she flung them with each word.

“What, Glenn? What do you want me to say?”

Clair is running out of room to hide and is feeling attacked. He knows it and perseveres.

“I don’t want you to say something; I want you to tell me and the others. I’ll ask it one more time. Clair, who are your dem…”

Before he could finish the question, she jumped up from her chair and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Everyone! Everyone is a fucking demon! Are you happy now?”

Angry and frustrated, she dropped onto the chair with so much force it hit the wall with a loud bang. The room went silent.

“I can see you’re upset.”

She lowered her head and said, “No shit.”

“But who are you the angriest with? Surely not all of us —” and in a rare stab at a little humor, he finished with — “except maybe me.” That brought a brief smile on her face.

She got back to her relaxed posture.

“I guess I’m the angriest at Hunter.”

“Isn’t that a little too easy? You really think Hunter is one of your demons.”

“He’s damn sure no saint.”

“When you guys are together and getting along, aren’t you happy?”

“I guess.”

“Let’s rule him out. What about your father?”

“You mean the sperm donor? He’s dead.”

“Yes, I know. Before then. Is he one of your demons?”

“Not really, I just hate him.”

“And your mother?”

“No, I only despise her.”

“What about Edward, your brother?”

Clair paused for a moment, sat up, then looked Glenn straight in the eyes, and in a voice of calm, said, “I would like to see him tortured to death and cut into little pieces.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.”

Larry jumped up and raised his hand.

“Can I help?”

If any help were needed, Glenn told him she’d call.

“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Clair. Edward is not one of your demons either.”

“Then, who is? You seem to know everything else. Who are my demons?”

“All of those you mentioned are only distractions and not letting you see who they truly are.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll show you.”

Glenn reached under his chair and slid an object on the floor toward Clair. It got to its mark, and she picked it up.

“I’ve had a ton of practice.” Referring to her and Charlies’ shuffleboard routine with the drinks.

“OK, now what?”

“Hold it up.”

She held the object at eye level with her arms bent to get a good view.

“Now, turn it around.”

As she did, her reflection appeared and peeked for a moment then sat it on her lap.

“Clair, pick it up. Look at it again and listen to what I am saying.”

She picked it up and held it as before. “What do you see?”

“Me.”

“Yes, you are right, it is you, but tell us what you see. Describe it to us.”

“I can’t.”

She slammed the mirror back on her lap again.

“Why are you such a jerk?”

“I’m paid to be your therapist, not your friend. I have to practice the jerk part.”

“You’re doing a good job.”

He ignored the jab and told her to pick up the mirror again and look at it.

As she did, he asked the others, “Now group, let’s help her out. Lisa, what do you see?”

“She’s pretty.”

“Mark?”

“She’s smart.”

“Suerenia?”

“She’s always been a kind friend.”

Clair lowered the mirror and Glenn said, “Keep looking.”

She raised the mirror back in position and listened to other group members. A slight sniffle was heard, followed by a small trail of goo coming from her nose, and hoping no one noticed, wiped it clean.

Glenn asked, “Do you need a tissue?”

“No thanks. My sleeve will do.”

“Okeydokey, let’s get back to it. Blake, what do you think?”

“Her eyes are gorgeous.”

Now a tear rolled down her cheek, followed by another. Clair was unable or unwilling to see what they saw, but tried to absorb each word they said. Saying something good about what was in the mirror was contrary to what she believed.

“And you two? What do you boys think?”

Ryan and Jason said together as if they rehearsed it, “She’s hot!”

That made her chuckle in between sniffles.

“Lauren, your thoughts?”

“I would kill for that hair!”

Larry again jumped to his feet again, “Right on, sister!”

“Sit down Larry and relax.”

Glenn didn’t want to leave him out of the exercise, but with reluctance asked him the same question. He seemed put off and not very enthusiastic.

He yawned and said, “OK, Larry, tell us something about Clair.”

Not in his usual, obnoxious behavior, he said with great sincerity, “I wish Clair was my girl.”

It’s hard to explain, but Larry’s answer got her tears to flow.

Clair got up from the chair, went over to Larry, put her arms around him, and gave a big hug, then whispered, “Thank you, Larry,” then kissed him on the cheek and returned to her seat.

She settled in, only this time, and on her own, got the mirror back in position.

“Clair, I’ll ask you one last time, who are your demons? Take your time.”

The group waited as she gazed into the mirror. She stared for a few more moments and let out a sigh. The others sat in deafening silence waiting for her answer.

Glenn already knew, but instead said, “Clair, please, tell the group who they are,” and said to himself, “Come on Clair, you can do it.”

The wheels started to turn, and the power the demons had on her were becoming weaker and weaker. Clair stared at the reflection, and as she did, millions of images raced through her brain like a high-speed movie projector. All the way from childhood until now seemed to pass right in front of her mind’s eye within those few moments.

“Clair?”

All the while, she hadn’t moved and continued to stare, then quietly announced, “I know who the demon is. There is only one.”

Glenn leaned forward.

“And who might that be?”

Everyone had remained quiet this whole time, then Suerenia whispered, “Clair, tell him.”

Clair took a quick glance at Suerenia, paused, then lowered the mirror and placed it on her lap.

She let out another deep sigh, then in a soft tone said, “Me, I’m the demon.”

The room again went silent except for a collective exhale. You could hear a pin drop because the group knew this was a crossroad for Clair. She finally met her demon face to face and prepared to challenge it.

“Clair, what you see in the mirror is the face of torment. You are not the demon. The past that haunts you is, and I want you to know the difference. What you saw was an image of its representative, and that’s all. It’s not real —only a reflection. But when you put into your head harmful thinking, you give it a reason to live. Your actions, like trying to kill yourself, are nourishment for the demon, and you must starve it. Now, you call the shots —” then Glenn emphasized — “because you are now in control, not an image in a mirror. Pick it up again.”

Clair raised the mirror, looked into it, but this time with a hint of a smile.

“Now what do you see?”

She paused for a moment, then let out a comforting sigh and said, “I see hope.”

“Me too. Good work. I’m very proud of you.”

Her response was short and somber.

“Thank you, Glenn,” and she meant it.

 

 

Roxie and Amway

Anyone born after 1965, skip this part, you won’t get it.

It was only a matter of time before she switched gears from the silly and giddy nut-job she was, into a businesswoman. I already knew she was an ‘Amroid’, and she knew I knew, but she still insisted on stalking me. The last time we had this conversation, I’m sure I insulted her, so she’s either forgetful or a glutton for punishment. To prepare herself what was about to come, Darlene smiled and downed her drink. Roxie still relied on the Amway playbook and used what they called the curiosity approach to nab another victim. She was already in her Amway-Zombie trance, and I braced myself for the attack. Darlene clinched my arm, holding on to keep me from beating Roxie to death. I took a long deep breath, then Roxie started the pitch. “John, let me ask you a question.” Away we go as she began her ‘Amwacker’ routine. “John, are you making all the money you want?”

I pondered for a moment. Since I’ve already been through this, I should have prepared a memorized response, but I had to go along, if for no other reason to help build Roxie’s confidence. “Gee Roxie, does anyone make all the money they want? What is it?”

She responded right out of the Amway playbook, “It’s a business opportunity.”

Again, I knew it was Amway, but asked anyway, “Is it Amway?” That always got to them when you asked. They try and maneuver away from the question. I suppose these people took a few tips from me about truth reorganizing.

She continued with a crafty redirection of the truth. “Airway?” Roxie laughed, shrugged it off and said, “No, we don’t build airplanes. I’m the president of a marketing company.”

“So, what’s the name of the marketing company, President Roxie?”

She sat up in the chair and proudly announced, “Roxie Pugh and Associates and our motto is, ‘We Make Dreams Come True’! Let me go to the car and get you a motivation tape.” She got up and ran out of the restaurant as fast as she could.

When she left, Paul made sure she was far enough away and motioned to Darlene and me to get in closer. We leaned across the table as instructed. “That dream of hers makes about four bucks a year. The good news is, she gets to write off her business expenses; it makes the IRS crazy.” Huffing and puffing, Roxie returned, handed me the tape and assured me my life would be changed. “Yeah,” I thought, “and going broke from buying all this shit.” I did my best to move on to another topic, but she was relentless. Those people were like a “dog on a bone” and wouldn’t let up. I promised her I’d listen to the tape, which was another complete lie. The cassettes’ fate awaited at the bottom of the nearest trash can.

“After you finish the tape, I’ll talk to my sponsor and he’ll call you. He’s our pastor, and very successful in the business.”

They never say Amway; it was always “the business.” With all the secrecy and coded language, you’d have thought the mob was in charge. “We should all go to a seminar and rally! I believe they’re having one in San Antonio next month.”

“Roxie, let me ask you a question. How much money does your successful pastor make?”

“Why? Do you need to borrow some?” That was another one of their tricks when asked how much money they make.

Darlene had been silent during most of the sales pitch, suddenly, she got excited about a trip to San Antonio. Didn’t she realize this was a trap? When these people got their hooks in, they never let up. Roxie went over the itinerary. Darlene asked, “You don’t say too much about what the women do.”

“We mostly stay in the shadows and support our husbands; after all, they’re the head of the household, and we’re taught to be submissive.”

Oh shit! I believe I’d made it clear by now how Darlene thought and reacted to things on the subject of freedom. The last comment from Roxie went over like a fart in church. I could tell by the expression on her face what she was thinking. “I’m out,” she replied flatly. Darlene turned her interest switch to the off position. Her involvement in this little chat had ended. Darlene submissive? You’ve got to be kidding? At that point in the conversation, Roxie would have been better off talking to the parrot. I visualized horns sprouting from Darlene’s head, as her venom glands began to swell. She bit her tongue and remained calm. Now came the excuses, and thankfully, the appetizers.

“Roxie, I just remembered something, I’m busy next month. I’ve got a parade to plan, and organize the Shrimp Festival. But John can go.”

Her effort to throw me under the bus failed. “Roxie, I can’t go either. I’m going to be sick next month. Let’s get back to dinner and forget about this whole thing for now.”

Roxie got in one more line. “OK John, but remember, winners win, and losers lose.”

“Do I pick now, or can I think about it for a while?” She wasn’t amused, but I assured her I’d keep it in mind. Roxie, in defeat, stuffed the brochure back into her briefcase, slammed it shut and snatched the tape out of my hand. Roxie was not a big drinker but ordered a beer and a double bourbon chaser.

Introduction- Suicide by Death

Introduction

How many times have you thought about killing yourself? One, two, ten? Every single day? It must have crossed your mind at some point. Wishing you were dead or had never been born, are both suicidal thoughts by any other name. So, if you said you’ve never once attempted suicide or at least thought about it— you’re lying to yourself. Suffering, pain, and doubt were the first things many of us learned; so why wouldn’t we at some point want to wish ourselves dead? With all the pressures in life and sundry setbacks along the way, for many, “checking out” a little earlier than scheduled seems like a practical alternative.

Many have convinced themselves that there are no rainbows left in the sky, and the greener grass on the other side does not exist. Others lost someone so close it seemed pointless to go on without them. Regrettably, everything that has been cited is reason enough for some to end their life. But wait, there is one more: the ultimate and final gotcha. Their shift was done; it was time for someone else to take over. Some will read this and know what I mean.

I have had my fair share of suicides in my life: distant relatives, friends, and acquaintances. One hit too close to home: the death of my sister. It was very painful and came without warning, and I learned the hard way about suicide first hand. I recently turned sixty and at a point in life when people around my age group are dropping like flies. Some of them were sick and dying, and the rest are buying Centrum Silver by the case to prolong the inevitable. But suicide, that’s a whole new ballgame.

I used to believe suicide was a coward’s way out, and others continue to share that sentiment. My sister’s death put me on a path of a deeper understanding, and I hope to shed light on this touchy subject.

I thought the odds were beaten and deceived myself into thinking lightning never strikes twice, but sadly it struck again; this time, it was my niece. If I had enough cynical presence of mind, I would have bought a lottery ticket. The truth is, I would have sawed off my arm with a dull blade to have been able to talk them out of it. But, in reality, and as hell-bent as they were, there were no blades dull enough to stop them, and alas, I don’t own a time machine.

Most will leave a dramatic note or sometimes a voice recording for loved ones. In my sister’s case, she wrote three letters. One for whoever found her (she went to a nearby lake and shot herself in the chest). The second was for the police, exonerating her spouse for having anything to do with it. The third was to her husband that included a lot of crap —most of it lies. “I’ll always love you,”—she didn’t. “I didn’t mean to do this,”—yes, you did. “Take care of the kids,”—he did not. She left behind a little girl, five, and a boy, seven. Photos of them surrounded her body, and some lay in her lap. I suppose she thought the world would be better off without her, when in fact, it isn’t. Whatever pain she suffered was over in an instant, for the rest of us, it lingers for a lifetime, and at that moment when she blew her heart to smithereens, a piece of mine went with it. I miss her every day.

In death, and I suppose other emotional trauma, the experts say most experience five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When there is a suicide, I believe the first three come all at once, and bargaining doesn’t even count. How could it? And last on the list is acceptance. That’s a toughie.

Some have questioned the title, Suicide by Death. At first, I thought it was cute —sort of an artsy thing, but in the back of my mind, I knew what it meant. For anyone who saw the movie Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, near the end Mr. Spock rescues the ship but sacrifices his life. Captain Kirk runs to Spock to save him and tries to open a fuel chamber. Dr. McCoy, “Bones,” said it would flood the compartment with radiation, and he and Scotty restrained the captain. Kirk struggled to free himself and murmured, “He’ll die.” Scotty replied in his thick, Scottish accent, said, “Sir, he’s dead already.”

He wasn’t dead yet and had enough time to share a personal moment with Kirk, but the fact remained that Spock was on his way out; death only needed to catch up.

Folks rarely pick up a gun and blow their brains out on a whim. It takes an amount of planning. And so it begins. You have already committed suicide in your mind; it simply needs to be followed up with a bullet, noose, jump off a skyscraper or whatever; then death’s bitter door swings wide open and welcomes you.

It is a safe bet that almost everyone has had to deal with suicide in their lives, and if you haven’t, you’ll just have to wait your turn.

My book, Suicide by Death, is not intended to be a self-help guide, though it might be. It is a fictional novel based on true events in and around my life and the lives of others. The story and its characters are broken and jagged, the language is raw, but it is real. Heck, darn and oh shoot, don’t seem to have the same punch as their crude counterparts, so if you are offended, try to get over it; the message is far greater than the language.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: www.MarkAnthonyWaters.com

Suicide by Death

“Do not just slay your demons,

dissect them and find what they’ve been feeding on.”

The Man Frozen in Time

Chapter I

At midnight, the grandfather clock announced the time. It was old, worn and grossly out-of-tune, but never missed a beat.

Ding, dong, — clang. It repeated itself twelve times representing each hour.

Trying to compete with the noise, the young mother’s wailing cries echoed throughout the house.

“Curtis! Wake up! My water broke!”

Startled, her husband woke from a deep, restful sleep. The sound of the clock with its irritating melody, combined with yells from his wife, confused him in his state of absolute tranquility. In the near dark, he tried to untangle himself from the covers to rescue whatever was in distress. Instead, he fell to the floor with a heavy thunk.

She’d been awake for a while and spent the time cleaning herself, then gathered a few toiletries from the bathroom.

With the continued dinging, donging and clanging, she yelled again.

“Curtis! Did you hear me?”

Unscathed, other than his pride, he mumbled, “Dammit to hell. Again? What? What is it? Another false alarm?”

He conjured a deep, surprised response while lying on the floor.

“What do you mean your water broke?”

Panicked, she flipped on the glaring bedroom light and packed a small leather suitcase.

“The baby’s coming. We have to get to the hospital… now!”

Cinderella thought she had it tough, this was no match.

The clock went silent, and Curtis lifted himself from the floor, jumping on one foot attempting to put on his pants… hiding and stifling a yawn so she wouldn’t see. Curtis scratched his head in confusion, though he shouldn’t be —it had been this way the entire length of the pregnancy; one problem after another. Groggy, he staggered around to find a shirt, socks, and shoes.

Digging through the dresser, he said, “I thought you weren’t due until July.”

“I was.”

Worried and concerned, she reached for her husband’s hand. Swollen with a baby and in pain, took a moment and dropped to her knees. Curtis stood by his wife. She let go of his hand, clasped hers together and prayed.

“Please, Lord, don’t let the baby come too early.”

Ignoring her prayers, he blurted out, “Have you seen my tie?”

Forgoing her sincere prayer, she went from the holiness of a saint to a woman from the underworld in two seconds flat.

“Forget the damn tie!”

She reached for the dresser and pulled herself up from the floor and returned to her small suitcase, snapped it shut and waddled toward the door.

“We have to go.”

This whole ordeal seemed like a sign of things to come for the yet unborn child.

They arrived at the hospital within minutes and rushed her to delivery. Her husband was at her side but whisked away and ordered to the waiting room.

In those days, women’s rights were not a topic, and the hospital delivery room was a metaphor for that sentiment. It was cruel at best, barbaric at worst. Fathers were never allowed in or near the delivery room. Any communication about the progress was only back and forth communication with an orderly or nurse. The doctors were gods and never questioned, and the patient intuitively remained subservient.

All the humiliation and embarrassment young women went through to have a baby, almost made motherhood not worth the trade. At most hospitals, there is a psych ward somewhere around, and I’m certain many of these new mothers got to spend a few days there.

After several hours of labor, it was time. The baby was as eager to come out as much as the mother was to keep it in.

The doctor was in position and gave the final order.

“Push!”

She strained and screamed so loud that her husband heard the cries all the way down in the waiting room. He paced back and forth and was biting his fingernails down to the nub. The screaming stopped, and all he heard was an unnerving silence —followed with more nail biting.

The baby saw its first ray of light, but lifeless.

“We have a blue baby!” cried a nurse.

The doctor cut the cord and took the infant over to a nearby warmer and did a quick assessment, swept the mouth and suctioned the nostrils. He removed his surgical gloves, and like rubber bands, shot them into a wastebasket.

“That’s all I can do. Nurse, call me if anything changes.”

“Yes, doctor. We will get the mother ready to move.”

“Good. And you,” — pointing to an orderly — “clean up this mess.”

“Yes, sir.”

The doctor glared at him.

“Sorry. Yes, doctor.”

“That’s better.”

As soon as the doctor left, a nurse muttered, “What an asshole.”

After some tense moments, the baby’s skin tone returned to normal, then the nurse offered comforting news.

“Don’t worry, everything is fine. The cord may have gotten tangled around the neck.”

An aide leaned in close to the new mother and added, “He may be a jerk, but he wouldn’t have left if there was a problem.”

Another nurse finished cleaning the newborn, and the mother asked, “May I hold my baby?”

“In a few minutes. I need to dress and wrap her.”

“Her?”

“Yes, Mrs. Reynolds, you had a little girl.”

That was the first time she got the news the baby was a female.

The smell of ether lingered, and Mrs. Reynolds was still woozy from its effect and laid flat on blood-stained bedding. The nurse fluffed her pillow then placed the baby on her chest.

“Be careful, she’s delicate and weak. You can have a few minutes, then we have to take her away.”

She cradled and gently stroked her hair, then whispered, “Hello, Clair. Happy birthday.”

Two of the nurses were mothers themselves and shared a moment of joy with Mrs. Reynolds, but that joy was soon interrupted. While the nurses were celebrating, a tech entered the delivery room with some test results, and it revealed the baby was Rh incompatible, meaning the newborn’s blood type was positive; the mother’s, negative. It can be a lethal cocktail.

Everyone was quick into action, including the doctor who returned to handle this emergency. Treatment options were limited in those days, and many newborns died because of it. Clair showed symptoms of anemia and was becoming jaundice. To avoid further damage, the doctor ordered a blood transfusion and took Clair away from her mother. Two hours later, they sent Clair to another room for the procedure. Not a pleasant way to start day one.

With the transfusion complete, all that remained was an empty bottle of blood still hanging above the young patient. The IV needle was removed leaving a few drops of blood behind on her tiny arm.

Clair got introduced to the world with little fanfare, but came a few weeks early, and by all standards in Nineteen-fifty-seven was premature.

She remained in critical condition for several days, and her chances of making it out of the hospital remained thin. The troubles she endured, literally began at birth, but fought and won her first of many battles to come. She learned as an infant the skills to survive, and it would be those skills Clair employed for the years that lie ahead.

The best picture, “Around the World in Eighty Days” got the Hollywood nod, and Elvis Presley was “all shook up” the year Clair was born. The best picture and top song seemed symbolic for what was to become her life. She was shaken emotionally and instead of an eighty-day trip; her resolve took many years.

Chapter II

Clair was an only child, except for her brother.

She had an upbringing like everyone else; nice house in a nice neighborhood, on a street with other nice houses with other nice neighbors. But in silence, there was an abundance of torment from a distant and domineering father, and an arrogant, head stuck in the sand mother. Three months after she came home from the hospital, it wasn’t long before the “new car smell” began to wane.

Her father was an insurance salesman; mother stayed at home and treated her like an interruption and nothing more. The relationship with her mother was strained even as a young girl, and she never understood why. Psychologists might argue it was jealousy. Any attention Clair’s father had for his wife, shifted away and placed on a stranger. Shortly after birth, an aunt was overheard saying that her father adored her and told everyone he knew that she looked like a little doll. To counter the adoration, her mother reminded Clair many times she was “an accident,” which was a polite way of saying “not wanted.” The affection her father once had, soon wore thin; she felt more like a pet than his daughter, but he still thought it was cute when she learned to walk and talk.

Years later Clair commented, “Yeah, like a trained parrot.”

Clair had an older brother who had quite the reputation with the ladies, some younger than Clair. Edward was spawned by Satan himself, but to say he was evil, would have been a compliment; he was beyond evil.

Edward was fourteen and remained out in the world, ‘feeling his oats’ as some would say. Her idiot parents weren’t aware of his ‘goings on,’ but heard rumors. At eight years old, Clair would be his next victim. She became part of the nourishment from his wicked feed trough and a target of his sick love interests.

Clair was on her way home from school one day, and a pack of older grade school girls approached her.

Their leader, Lucy, moved in close, and with a snarled lip asked, “How’s your brother the lover?”

“Huh?”

Clair didn’t understand the meaning or what it suggested.

“I have to go now.”

She skipped down the sidewalk, then turned, smiled and waved.

“Bye-bye, Lucy.”

On the way home, she hummed the Happy Birthday song. It wasn’t her birthday, but she loved the tune. Her little dress floated, and her blond, pig-tailed hair swung back and forth with each skip.

Halfway to her destination, Clair stopped for a moment, confused and wondered, “Why is he my brother the lover? Oh well,” then skipped the rest of the way home.

At the time Lucy made the comment, Edward had not touched Clair, only the others. Though she didn’t understand its meaning, her time was running short and was close to finding out.

As Clair got older, she continued to live with confusion, but in her world, everything seemed normal and had no way of gauging the difference. As a young teen, and a consequence of that confusion, the relationship with her father, what little they had, drifted further apart, and again, she never knew why.

“Does he love me? Does he care?”

If he did, it didn’t show.

Clair would see a father holding his little girl’s hand, witnessed their happiness and said to herself, “I wish he was my daddy.”

Mr. Reynolds traveled for his company, sometimes weeks at a time, and never attended a single tennis tournament or school play. After a while, whatever disappointment she felt, over time, disappointment had no meaning. They were more like strangers, and it was most evident after the abuse from Edward. It was as if he knew but never said a thing. The thought he might have known and did nothing hurt her. Some of those memories she could recall, but most remained tucked away in a fog, and any love lost between them was now resentment.

***

At seventeen, soon after graduating high school, Clair moved out and got her own apartment miles across town away from her family. Edward still lived at home and was useless. The scorn toward her brother was an understatement and hated they breathed the same air.

Clair was not wealthy by any means but took care of herself with the help of a small trust fund her grandmother left her and two cousins. She also had a part-time job and sold a few pieces of her art for a few bucks, mostly to friends and relatives.

***

It was a chilly, fall day, complimented with an occasional thunderstorm with flashes of lightning filtering through the windows. It was perfect weather to work on one of her paintings. Clair had been pondering what direction her current project was heading and studied it for hours. Interrupting her thoughts, the phone rang and took the call.

Hearing it was her brother, she asked in a deliberate and sarcastic tone.

“Yes, Edward, what do you want?”

He announced that their dad was dead, and said, “Dad is dead,” then hung up.

She laid the phone down, dropped in her chair, and allowed those three words to wash over her. Clair’s emotions seemed limited to only three: mad, sad and angry. She was hard-pressed to figure out which one and hadn’t a clue how to react.

The first thing to pop into her head was, “Wow.”

There was only one hospital in the area and figured that was where they would have taken him. When Clair arrived, she asked the volunteer at the information desk where Mr. Curtis Reynolds could be found.

She punched a few keystrokes on the computer and pointed.

“He is all the way down the hall in emergency. When you get there, I’ll buzz you in.”

As Clair walked away, all the volunteer could say was, “I’m very sorry, ma’am.”

Clair stopped, turned and looked at her. There wasn’t much to say except to tell her thanks.

“What can you say at a time like this?”

And tucked way down deep inside, her next thought was eerily reminiscent of her childhood.

“Who knows, who cares.”

She got to the entrance, heard the door unlock, then slammed open the swinging double doors like she owned the place. Within a few steps, she heard voices coming from the first room on the right. It was a grieving room, and Clair found her mother and brother embracing each other. Clair walked passed them and went to the E.R. intake desk instead and asked what happened. It was reported he was killed in a hunting accident.

The intake clerk knew a little about the family, and her thoughts were, “With this crowd, he most likely jumped in front of the bullet.”

An unsmiling nurse approached Clair.

“May I help you?”

Clair wanted to see her father, but the snotty bitch with a shitty attitude suggested, “Not now,” saying it was still “quite a mess.”

“Why not? Why can’t I see him?”

Put out, Nurse Bitch let out a disgusted sigh.

“We’ll get him cleaned up as best we can, then you can see him if you’d like.”

She continued in an exasperated tone.

“But if I were you, I’d wait until the mortician straightens things out, and puts him back together. His head has more pieces than a jigsaw puzzle.”

Under normal circumstances, most would be offended at such callousness, but not Clair.

“I understand. I’ll just wait and see him at the funeral home.”

She walked out, turned back and asked in a raised voice, “Nurse?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Have you ever heard of Dale Carnegie?”

“No, I don’t believe I have.”

Clair said loud enough for all to hear, “No shit!”

***

The day of the funeral, the weather was still crap. It was perfect to draw and paint, but inappropriate to bury the dead —then again, maybe not. Instead of a funeral chapel with a private family room, they held it at a regular church with all the trappings; big cross, big statues, big stained glass windows and rows and rows of pews. Family and close friends were paraded to the front ones, and Clair was the last arrival. The smell of death filled the air, and the scent of the lilies and carnations crowded her nostrils. The blend of the flowers seemed exclusive only to a funeral, leaving no doubt this was the right place. As she made her way to the assigned seating, she looked around.

“Good crowd,” were her thoughts, then took a seat.

Another one popped into her head, “One down, two more to go.”

Clair sat on the right side near an exit door, and her mother and brother sat opposite, separated by a few others. As the service was getting under way, Clair shed a few crocodile tears for her mother’s sake, and by God, she leaned forward and checked. Clair also threw in two dramatic sobs to be on the safe side, then drew a sketch of the casket on the blank, back side of the program.

To be fair, Clair was shocked when she heard the news and a little sad, but most of her feelings remained stuck in neutral. She didn’t pay too much attention to her father, but her eyes stayed fixed on the casket.

“That thing must have cost a fortune.”

At the end of the service, she got up, marched to the front of the church and stood by her father as a show of respect, because that was what you were supposed to do. She noticed how good he looked, aside from the patch on his forehead hiding the bullet hole.

“Those ghouls did a great job,” went through her mind.

Then whispered, “Let’s see how good.”

She was tempted to roll him over to see where it exited, but decided it might be rude.

Clair stood there a few seconds, gave him a single pat on the chest and said, “Bye, Dad. Have fun.”

After saying her final farewell, she turned and walked toward her mother. She ignored Edward then stopped and said flatly, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

A moment later, she retreated toward an exit.

Her mother spun around in the pew and shouted, “He was your father for Christ’s sake!”

Everyone in the chapel sat in shock, but Clair kept walking and waved from behind.

“Whatever.”

A few weeks after the funeral, her mother was having “one of those days,” thinking of her late husband. She was sitting in the breakfast area, both elbows on the table, wine glass in one hand, a burning cigarette in the other. Clair stopped by to get a stored painters smock from her old room. Her mother looked at her as if in a hypnotic trance. A trail of dried tears lined her face, muddied by dark makeup.

She extinguished her cigarette and gulped the last of the wine.

“I wish it had been you instead of your father.”

“Excuse me?”

Her mother tilted the wine glass up as high as she could to get the last drop.

“Just get what you came for and leave me alone.”

Clair had nothing else to say. As requested, she gathered her things and left.

It’s hard to imagine comments like that coming from a mother, but aware she was upset and blew it off. Those around them knew there wasn’t any love lost between the two. Her mother later apologized despite the lack of affection. Clair accepted it with about the same amount of emotion. Though their differences separated them, the “wish it were you” comment lingered in her head, and it stung for a long time.

Welcome!

This is my new and improved website and blog.  Make yourself at home and take a look. Scroll down a bit to catch my latest blog.

On this page, you will find a few shorts from currently published or upcoming novels, plus a few reviews.

I’d love to hear from you!

Email me at: Mark@MarkAnthonyWaters.com

 

 

Best Review Ever!

“Mark Waters did it again… authored another great read that I could not put down. “Suicide By Death” lends a much needed message to anyone who has ever faced any adversity or misfortune. The poignant characters demonstrate that we all have our demons and fears which become obstacles that determine the path(s) we choose, but which path we choose is up to us. In so choosing, do not allow others’ weaknesses to control you, but rather make you stronger because you are NOT UNDESERVING OF LOVE AND HAPPINESS. “Suicide By Death” will positively affect how you view yourself, the road you are on, restore faith in yourself and restore hope, if necessary! To paraphrase what Claire said: Do not make the light at the end of the tunnel a train – it is up to you!”

Kelli Knupp

Me and the Girls

Well, it has finally come down to this. They say that “sex sells” so here is my stab at it. This weekend here in Rockport, Texas, we celebrated our 41st annual “SeaFair” festival. Me and a few others rented a booth to sell our books written by local authors. I spotted these two beautiful women and thought, “what the hell!” Both of them are proudly diMe and the girlssplaying my latest  book, “Three Days in Heaven.”