Category Archives: Stories

Born to be Wild!

I stepped from my 32′ Holiday Rambler and stood at the top of the steps to greet Fondathe dawn. Drips from the night’s smattering of rain fell on my neck. The sky was overcast, ominous. Monsoon thunderheads hung in the atmosphere like sleeping giants.

As I continued to wake, I considered the route I might ride to my coffee appointment. I descended to the patio while pinching into my front pocket a friend’s Harley-Davidson gloves.

I was thinking, “Yep, it’s still there.”  I had covered the motorcycle with a tarp the night before. “Yep, there’s still a motorcycle under that tarp.”

“What am I doing?” my brain exclaimed. “I’m sixty-two years old and haven’t ridden a motorcycle in thirty years!” The last one I was on I left at forty-five miles per hour, slammed my helmet into the rocks of a motocross trail in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. “Dodged a bullet that day,” I keenly observed to myself.

My Ford 4 X 4 pickup truck broke down, and a dear friend loaned me a motorcycle. As I looked the machine over in the daylight, I thought, “I’ve never ridden one of these before.  Wonder how it handles?“

Funny how new experiences remind us of old ones. Getting ready to ride reminded me of my high school buddy Digger and his Harley Sportster. Extended forks, low seat, the sound of the ratcheting kick starter, the engine roaring to life. Digger’s red beard in the wind. Hog heaven, some would call it. And we all agree, nothing else in the galaxy sounds like a Harley.

I pulled off the tarp, grabbed that baby by the handlebars, and sat down. I lingered in the moment, remembering Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, and Nancy Sinatra in the 1966 movie Wild Angels. I think it was my friend Rolls that had the sound track album back in the sixties, and I mean nineteen-sixties.

As small-town teenagers lusting after motorcycles, looking desperately for something to rebel against, and well, . . more than a passing interest in short skirts and tall boots, we boys used to huddle around the record player and listen to the opening sound track to the movie, feeling the unconscious rumble of something out of reach in our simple lives.

I put on the Harley gloves, and sat with both feet on the ground, straddling the unfamiliar and silent machine.  As I turned the key on, I called up the memory of that movie soundtrack.  I could hear the garage door opening, then the monster of torque being forced into life, its engine grabbing and gasping for air, ultimately blowing exploded gases out its tailpipes like a medieval fire-farting dragon. Sure the Harley shook, but so did the earth.

Pulling out of my driveway I could see Peter Fonda in his black leather jacket, his tinted teardrop glasses, his unkempt hair. I could hear the chopper on the album ease out of the garage and move to a two-lane blacktop.  Then shifting gears and animalistic internal-combustion bellowing.  In my personal vision this is where John Kay and Steppenwolf build the testosterone-fueled climax with their primal biker-rock-mantra  Born to Be Wild!

With all that coursing through my veins, I was on the empty back street of a small American town, the yards and mailboxes slipping by like last week’s memories. Two horses looked up, and a dog barked. A cat scurried to get out of my way, then paused to stare over its shoulder.

A young woman opposite me at the four-way-stop gave me a long look.  My scooter hummed more loudly as I accelerated passed her. I could feel her gaze as I pulled away and quickly pushed it to thirty-miles per hour.

I had to admit it felt weird having my feet and knees right there in front of me like I was a kid sitting at a school desk.  I had to resist the urge to use a clutch and shifter.  It was smooth, quiet, just turn the twist-grip and go.

From the Genuine Scooter Company, the Buddy model, a 4-stroke, 150cc wonder.  A preciously pretty machine.  A pleasant shade of green that could be easily hidden in a pea patch.  A big shiny headlight on the top of its steering column and fairing. My friend’s green woven grocery bag hung by its handles from a purse-hook above my bored and restless feet.

The rushing wind and sounds of nature were muted by the face shield and helmet, but I could feel the balmy breeze on my sun tanned and naked knees. No traffic. Damp pavement. I could not help smiling. I looked so cute, I was irresistible.

Upon arriving at my destination, I swaggered a bit as I put the scooter up on its stand and I took off my helmet. It was a beautiful ride and a beautiful gift from a beautiful person.

Friends, good friends, bring out the best in us don’t they?  Some great thinker once said you can count the number of true friends in a lifetime on one hand.  I think it was probably said by somebody in their  sixties, and I mean the age group not the decade.  It takes that long to be able to look back and see the forks-in-the-road of one’s life.

Reveling in old memories and new ironies, a faint and tickling spiritual chuckle rose up in me.  Some comedic corner of my brain was singing in John Kay’s whiskey-soaked gravelly voice,

“Born to be Mi . . i . .i . l d!buddy50_italia

Born to be

M . i . . i . . l d!”

 

Redbone Puppy Heals Woman

Joe & Shiloh in a barrel The following is an excerpt from Jeff’s novel scheduled for an autumn release. It is the sequel to Indians & Aliens and unexpected short stories. This second book of his Dreamer Series is titled Grace & Dreamer – extreme love stories.  Be aware, there is in this piece direct reference to brutal violence.  There is also a happy ending.

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. . . During that pause, Buddy spoke up. “Do I remember you sayin’ that your wife has a fondness for Redbone Hounds?”

“Yes,” Jack answered.

Then Buddy explained that his dog Big Joe had drug his doghouse across the back of their property to mate with their female, and they had an unexpected litter of puppies. He told Jack that if he brought Grace out in a couple weeks, he would give her the pick of the litter. He gave Jack their phone number and Jack wrote down the directions to finding their place.

Jack told Buddy that he would talk it over with Grace and see what she thought.

*

This was a big issue for Grace, and Jack knew it. Her beloved dog Napoleon was the Redbone Hound of her adolescence, a gift she cherished and found joy in during some of the hardest times of her life. She walked with that dog and talked with that dog and slept with that dog.  Her stepfather decapitated Napoleon in front of Grace with one swing of an axe . . to teach the girl a lesson.

Grace was not sure she could open the doors to that painful memory.
She was not sure she wanted a living, breathing daily reminder of her early life. Eventually she decided they could just go look at the puppies with no intention of picking one out. She figured they could not compare with the famous bloodline that her dog had come from. “I’ll know a good hound when I look them all over,” she said.

When they arrived at Buddy and June’s that day, Jack turned off the engine and was the first to speak. “Don’t be afraid to hear it.” “What? What did you say Honey?” “I said don’t be afraid to hear it.”

“Hear what?” she asked.

He replied, “Your own spirit voice. Don’t be afraid to hear your calling.”

“Oh,” she responded when she recognized what Jack meant. Even from the truck, she could see, “Yeah, they’re good looking dogs.”

“Well,” he went on, “take some time with them. See how it feels to you. If you want one, we’ll take one home. If not, that’s all right too. Really Hun, whatever feels right to you.”

Then Jack backed away and left her alone with the litter of six Redbone  puppies. At that moment, time went wild in her mind. It had been forty years since she last touched a hound like those. The smell took her back to the day she fell in love with Napoleon.

The moment was surreal, and she became lightheaded and had to steady herself by grabbing the corner of the puppy’s pen. New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.  Live free or die country was another lifetime ago. Suddenly it was like yesterday. Deep woods and French Canadian accents, dancing on wood floor houses that shook under the weight of people partying , long walks along the creeks, hiding under the fallen leaves to feel safe, fanciful images of racing the wind as she stared out the window on long train rides, beaches, clambakes, hurricanes, Central Park, Sheepshead Bay, The Brooklyn Dodgers, writers and artists, made men, prize fighters, limousines and staying alive.

Her mind reeled as she was in Tennessee, home of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, namesake of Tennessee Williams, home to young Cormac McCarthy. She lived an easy drive north of that place she read about as a girl in Junior High history class. She remembered a Civil War battlefield called Shiloh, and she thought it meant “place of peace.”

*

Jack passed the time with Buddy. “Jack I’ve loved my wife a little, loved my children a little, and well . . I’ve loved my dogs a lot.” He paused for Jack’s smile. “It’s been a good life over all.” Then he looked off towards the woods, like a man at peace, like the list of life decisions he had made was complete and satisfactory.

Jack looked down at the earth and kicked the dusty clay soil. “Yeah, Buddy. What else can we ask for?”

Just then Grace looked his way, and he decided it was time to join her. By the time he started in her direction, Buddy was walking with him quiet, the way two men do when they are comfortable with each other, like they know how the other thinks, and they respect each other. Grace was still staring at the puppies when the two men arrived next to her.

She excused herself, and the two men and June watched Grace make her way down to the back part of the property to meet Big Joe and Daisy, the momma of the brood. Grace talked with them a long time before slowly starting uphill to the people and pups of the present.

She was spinning with thoughts of her early years in Arizona. The rape ordered by Liam, the pregnancy, the bikers, card sharks, front men, hustlers, sisterhoods, battles fought, battles lost.

Growing up in New England sexually abused was her first lifetime. Her first marriage was her second lifetime. Children raised, children abused and children healing. Her sons and daughter struggling to find their ways in life. The church she found. The minister who inspired her. Her personal therapy. Divorced after twenty-five years. Two graduate degrees wile working her way through college. Clinical Director of a prestigious organization.

Then she met Jack.

As she strolled up the hill to the puppy pen where the others gathered, her mind caught up with real time and she gazed at the man of her third lifetime, her precious husband and partner. She walked up to him gracefully and put her arms around him. “I love you Jack Goodman.”

He put his arms around her. “I love you Gracie Ann.  What you gonna name that pup you were holdin’?”

“Rachel.”

“Perfect.”

 

Close Encounter, a novel excerpt

 

(an excerpt from Indians & Aliens – and unexpected short stories)Amazon pickure cover

Grace and Jack sold their beloved home in Dickson County, Tennessee and left their twenty years of trauma counseling business to move to north-central Arizona. It was an unincorporated area of mile-high desert five miles out an undedicated dirt road. There was no one between them and the two-lane blacktop to the east. Jack said he dreamed of this place a year before they bought it, when leaving Tennessee was unimaginable.

As the raven flies, Apache Wells was midway between Iron Sight Gun Range and the Feather Mountain Spiritual Center. Depending on atmospheric conditions, one might hear automatic weapons fire from over the southern hills or heart-felt prayers and meditations from atop the distant northern mesa. Both seemed to anticipate a coming world catastrophe.

The road to Apache Wells was miles of tire-shredding rocks and scattered pockets of ankle-deep dust as fine as baby powder. It was hard on truck tires, suspensions, air filters, electrical systems, and people with spinal problems. During the decade of drought, dust storms could roll across the flat valley floor. They could form as dark roiling tsunamis, spitting sand and gravel bullets. Piling armies of tumbleweeds could take down a mile of wooden fence posts strung tightly with rusting barbed-wire.

One of the first things Grace and Jack learned about their new homeland was that it had been the subject of an international news story a few years prior to their arrival. There had been a number of impressive UFO reports from the Apache Wells area. Later the same night, identical reports came in a hundred miles to the south. It was called the Lights Over Phoenix Sighting.

During the autumn of their arrival, Jack and Grace awoke in the midnight hour by one of their outside dogs, Sparky. Country folks have dogs for security and protection, as well as companionship, and Jack knew the distinctive bark of each of the five dogs.

What he knew for sure that night was that the most easy-going member of their pack was barking in an uncharacteristic manner. She was intensely focused and upset and responding to “something” in a frenzied barrage of canine concern the others joined in on.

Groggy with sleep, Grace asked, “What are they so upset about?” “I don’t know.” Grabbing a flashlight from the night stand, Jack told Grace that he was going outside to check around. Briefly he entertained the thought of taking his grandfather’s shotgun, but dismissed the idea as over-reactive.

The creaking of the screen door sounded thunderous as Jack tried to let himself out quietly and descend the porch steps. The gravel driveway reminded him that it would have been wise to put on some footwear. Walking around the side of the tool shed he shined the flashlight in the direction of the dog kennel and could read the big red letters. “The Redbone Club.” The dim old, off-and-on, flickering flashlight reminded him that new batteries should be included on his next shopping trip.

On the moonless night, he could see that sure enough, his happy-go-lucky Sparky was barking ferociously in the direction of the nearest neighbor to the west. He wondered if someone was breaking into the vacant house in the distance.

Directing the fragile beam in that direction, Jack’s breath caught in his throat. A shimmering motion glowed at the very edge of the flashlight’s reach. A small cloud of sparkling and wavering dust danced in the inky darkness. It was about his own height and in the form of a slender person. He watched as it undulated sideways but maintained its distance.

Jack had a long-held intuition that someday this might happen, but he never told anyone, well except Grace.

 

Terrorist Tumbleweeds Attack!

They came out of the south, beginning their assault on the senses at mid-

A brush with death!
A brush with death!

morning. The wailing of the wind called thousands of them into action. Tumbleweeds folks! Russian thistles that were brought into this land of high desert by immigrants crossing the plains in a past century.

They came in all sizes, as small as grapefruits, as big as bowling balls, basketballs, and beach balls. They rolled relentlessly, rapidly, and recklessly, and in a riotous manner, leaping, flying, furiously throwing themselves at anything and anyone in their paths.

Dust and sand accompanied them, thrown up in clouds dense enough to block out one’s vision of the surrounding mountains, slamming into homes, vehicles, sheds, and fences of all kinds. A wooden post fence laid flat by the force of hundred of tumbleweeds pressing against it with the help of a wild, wailing wind. A steel-pipe fence strained under the same pressure by ten-fold that number, piled five-feet high and just as deep, appearing dense enough to be built of dry-stacked stones.

As I attempted to unhook the closed gate to my property, the gale pushing against the accumulated tumbleweeds on the other side fought my efforts to the point that I had to thrust my shoulder against the metal to release the tension on the chain. It came open and backed me up in my tracks, and then the onslaught of round, dried weeds began, rushing up against me threatening to engulf me. I fought against them folks, grabbing at them, suffering the sting of their prickly tentacles on the front and back of my hands and lower arms.

I regained my balance and my Kenpo karate training came to life.  I kicked them, side-kicks, spinning back-kicks, breaking some into pieces, and the pieces came at me, flying up in my face with evil intent. I changed direction with my kicks, and the wounded flew down wind, and I made my break for the pickup, slamming the door behind me, and shuddering from the ferocity of the attack.

Death had come calling on the high-mountain prairie, . . and was thwarted!

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Special thanks to photobucket.com

The Storyteller Story

The writer’s great challenge?  Say the most in the fewest words.    Here is an entry into that contest.

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The Storyteller Story

by J. Kirkendall

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On a dark and stormy night . . .

I howled to the spirit winds,

Write to live!

Live to write!

. . . Silence . . .

The winds howled back,

Keep the faith!

Storytellers rule!

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Dreamer & Sundancer
Dreamer & Sundancer

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A Great Marriage Story

by Jeffery Kirkendall

During a time of personal hardship in my life, Dr. Tony Ebarb, my dear friend, spiritual brother, and mentor, told me this story.

Tony’s dear friends, a retired sheriff and his wife, were both going through a series of medical problems. He had a stroke and could not use his limbs well enough to  dress himself. She lost her sight but was physically quite capable of getting around.

They started each day by her going to the bedroom closet, opening it, extending her arm, and pointing into the closet. He would then verbally direct her pointing to the clothing he wanted to wear that morning. She removed the articles of clothing he chose and then helped him get dressed.

They repeated a similar strategy to get her clothes for that day.

In this cooperative fashion, they continued to live a fulfilling life together, finding ways to share their daily routines and intimacies.

These people, whom I have never met, have been an inspiration to me for years.  I thought I should share their story.

May we all be lifted to such gracious living and loving in the face of great challenges.

Many blessings to you all,

Jeff

Two in Love
Two in Love