Tuesday, October 30, 2012

chapter two

2. Nobody gets married thinking they’ll get divorced. And if someone had told me even a few months ago that our marriage would not make it ‘til death do us part, I could not have believed them. But now, the wife I loved and knew is someone else. Four years has driven a wedge into us. We've split. And the distance is too great to cross. Our efforts are better spent elsewhere. I will channel energy into writing. She will focus on her art. Teach. Create balance again. But that may take some time. Maggie does not rise, forgive, and create direction on her own. Because of this—whether she recognizes it or not—she is moving north. To Alpena. To live at our cottage on Grand Lake and work at Gallery Fifty-Seven, her brother's art studio. The move is not permanent, she says. Her aim is to save money, get grounded, so she and Sadie can move to Iowa in June. “Why June?” I asked her. “June is when the best part of Michigan weather is coming round. Why don't you set up a little studio at the cottage and just work through the summer?” This was last night. We were on the porch. Exchanging Sadie. “What for? You’ll be on the island. I’m not going through three seasons alone in Alpena.” She brims with resentment. I am leaving her. I am selling our house. I am leaving our daughter. I am giving up on everything. But she is the one that's broken our vows. “For Sadie,” I said. “And for our folks.” Sadie grabs my leg. Squeezes. “I don’t want to go to Iowa,” she says. My wife bites her lip. Nearly loses it to tears and crying and everything else that’s balled up inside her. It is an awful sight, seeing her like this on the porch where we used to sit, drink wine, be happy and unwind. A place where we felt safe. Comforted. At home. Where we could watch Sadie play in the yard. And we could listen to the birds. And talk about the day as the sun fell and the old conversion van turned ice cream truck weaved through our neighborhood playing Pop Goes the Weasel. “Nobody’s going to Iowa yet,” I said. Maggie has something to say. It is on the tip of her tongue. But she cannot let it out. Have it go free to run. And it is this—her unwillingness to talk, to explain, to share and come clean—that heightens my pulse, sends my heart to my gut, and makes me wish that she didn’t look so pretty—even now, with darkness all around and sadness in her face—and that I had never caught her. Fucking another man. In our house. Our bed. In the middle of our life. The day I found out—when I lived out the cliché of coming home early to find her with another man—was the end. There was no coming back from that. Her on top of him. Moaning. One of his hands on her tit, the other rubbing her ass. Some stranger doing things to my wife that she never let me do. It is the type of image, scene, nightmare that once you've seen it, felt it, known it, cannot be forgotten. And even though I've forgiven her, I cannot forget. And once physical lines have been crossed, the stronger, emotional lines begin to crumble. And now, I wonder if her lines were ever as strong as mine. And I wonder about everything. How she started smoking weed a few times a week after Sadie went to bed and I went to the basement for writing. How she started leaving dishes and laundry around. How she painted less and less and watched TV more and spent more time on Facebook and had more nights out with the girls. And the sex—always the sex since our honeymoon—how I always wanted it and she never did. And finally, when we would have it—maybe twice a month—she did not kiss me. Would not allow me to touch her tits. Rub her ass. And more often than not, she would not look at me. Something was wrong. I knew it. But when nearly everything else works, when you get along, support and encourage each other, own a home, a cottage, shiny cars, and you have a beautiful kid, and the biggest bang you get out of the day—aside from your family—is that you get paid to write stories—life is good. And when life is good, there's no reason to worry or wonder or think about how it could be great. And so, you have sex with your wife twice a month. You make sure the bills are paid. And you keep a steady eye on the fact that most people don’t have it as good as you do. It has not been easy. I sleep a few hours a night. Eat too much. Drink too much. It is hard to focus. To think. To do anything. When you know your wife has cheated you want for nothing to matter any more, but every little moment seems louder, clearer, and longer lasting. You are given a great gift of perspective and groundedness when your life is broken. And the damndest thing about it is that the heart remains the only thing unchanged. It has learned what it has learned. Knows what it wants. And there is love within it that cannot let go. As my wife wipes her eyes, there is a great sparkle as her diamond catches the porch light. “You’re still wearing your ring,” I said. “I know. I don’t know why. I just can’t take it off.” She was on shaky ground. About to break loose at any moment. “Give Momma a hug,” I said to Sadie. She let go of my leg. Hugged my wife. Their two curly brown shocks of hair came together. “I don’t want to go to Iowa, Mommy.” “I know, honey.” And then they both fell to tears. Hugging. Holding. And I looked away. To the lights of planes as they pushed through dark sky. To other men and women. Husbands and wives. Great distances from home. Traveling together or alone. Some with more disaster, fear and failure stitching together their relationships—their lives—than any outsider could ever know. And I wonder, if people can put their trust into strangers to land them safely from flights so high above the earth, why can’t I work to rebuild trust in my wife? Why can’t I work through it? Why can’t I make it work? The questions, they keep coming, over and over again, but they are questions I cannot answer. “I don’t want to go to Iowa, Mommy. I like it here.” Let’s not worry about Iowa,” I said. “Let’s worry about Frankemuth.” “Frankenmuth?” Sadie asked. “I thought you were going to the zoo?” Maggie said. Sadie stood between us. Wiped her eyes. Smiled. “What’s Frankenmuth? Is it a monster?” “No,” I said. “Frankemuth is a neat little town just a couple hours from here.” “But I want to see the polar bears!” she said. “We’ll see bears,” I said. “We will?” “Sure, and there’ll be a tiger and lion, and …” “But I want to go into the glass cave. The hole with the water around us and watch the bears swim,” she said. “What’s she talking about?” Maggie asked. “The Arctic Ring of Life,” I said. “At The Detroit Zoo.” “And we can watch the blind sea lions swim round and round,” Sadie said. “And the polar bear will play with the big red ball and I will reach up and touch him.” “She must have had fun last time,” Maggie said. “We’re not going to the big zoo,” I said. “We’re going to a little zoo, but we’re also going to go shopping, and swimming, and we’re going to eat and drink …” “Not too many drinks, ” Maggie said. I ignored her. Kept right on rolling. “ … and play video games and miniature golf and go to The Cheese Haus and Kern’s Sausage shop.” “Okay! Okay!” Sadie cheered. “Let’s go!” And I picked her up and we hugged and Maggie stepped closer and touched my arm and for a moment, we were home again. A husband and wife. With our daughter. On the porch. Decompressing from the day. All we needed was a little wine. The birds. And Pop Goes the Weasel—the ice cream truck serenade. “Where are you staying tonight?” I asked. My wife dabbed her eyes with a tissue. Took her keys from her coat pocket. Pulled her collar up to her ears. “In Canton,” she said. She moved closer. Kissed Sadie’s cheek. Hugged her. “I’ll meet you guys in Alpena in four days,” she said. “And Sadie, keep Daddy on track.” “I will!” Sadie said as she hugged me. Then we turned to watch her mother, my wife, walk away. Down the porch steps where we used to sit and watch sunrises and sunsets. Feed breadcrumbs to the family of mallards that adopted our neighborhood. Into the driveway where we played basketball and hop scotch. And into the car that took us everywhere. Grocery shopping at Meijer. To Wasabi in Westland. To Hines Park. Red Robin. The Drive-In on Ford Avenue. Tigers games. Bald Mountain in Lake Orion. And always up north, to Alpena. Our home away from home. And that, after her stay in Canton, was where she was headed. “I still don’t want to go to Iowa,” Sadie said. “I know, honey. But Iowa’s not so bad.” “Why?” she asked. “They have corn. Good schools. Lots and lots of windmills.” “They do?” “Sure, they do,” I said. I set her down. We watched Maggie’s red taillights until they were gone. I shut off the porch light and we went inside. “Time for beer and Scooby-Doo,” I said. “Okay,” Sadie said. “But not too much. We need our rest.” “You can never have too much beer and Scooby-Doo,” I said.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


~ Jan. 23, 2010 ~ MANGE Raccoons up an old elm as we tour a 1940’s custom-built brick home and dream of what it might be like to raise our kids there, in a neighborhood nicer than we deserve, and how me and my wife can sit by the fire and be content, and how maybe I can use the basement to write and drink and read and maybe even smoke a pipe, and we see the coons. Three of them. An adult and two young. And they do not look good. Mange has a hold of the two little guys. Something else has hold of the other. I know this because they do not look strong. And I know this too because it is January and daylight and 22 degrees. I say nothing, but the realtor does. "Oh, there are the critters," she says. And Little Man and S.B and even Jovi look out the kitchen window. The kids--they do not know--but S.B. looks at me. I look at her and we pass it off as the realtor does. An obvious fact of life. "Two of them have mange," she says. "And the big one, she doesn't look well either." Little Man stretches his neck. Watches as the animals wobble and shake thirty feet above ground. "They won't make it through the winter," our realtor says. It is sad. True. Another dose of brutal reality in this life that grows warmer and colder each day. And all of us turn from the window and keep looking. In closets. Bedrooms. Upstairs. Down into the basement. And nothing is known. For certain. It is, after all, just a house. Another building. A place to call home. And no matter what, we will have shelter and food, and we will last the winter. Not like the coons. Or the snowflakes. Or the people pushing through this life fighting for the wrong things. "I think we'll get the loan," I said to S.B. Tonight. As we sipped wine and watched bits and pieces of WALK THE LINE. "I think so too," she said. "We're good people, I think." "We are good," she said. Just then, Johnny Cash appears in the studio singing about prison and shooting a man just to watch him die. "Johnny goddamned Cash," I said. S.B. looked at me. Smiled. "People these days, they don't get it," I said. "Get what?" "Anything. People just don't get it." She smiled. Sipped her wine. "They don't get old brick houses, coons with mange, family, or doing what it takes to rise up and be better," I said. "You okay, honey?" she asked. I drink my wine. "I'm okay," I say. And head to the kitchen for more. But I am not okay. I am caught up in work and not writing and how our world has moved too far from a life where faith outweighs fear. And I wish to fuck our world had a Hemingway, Grant, and Johnny Cash to battle E.L. James, Tatum, and T.I. "Could you imagine," I said. "One of these hip-hop rapster-shits that think they're so tough in a room, one-on-one, with Johnny Cash when he was young?" She smiles again. "It's just not the same anymore," I said. "It's all different and based on things that do not last." "You seem tired, honey. Maybe you should sit down and rest." But I don't want to rest. I don't want to sleep. I don't want to do anything, but drink more wine, fight the good fight, and believe we have what it takes to hold onto the greats. But instead of drinking or fighting or believing in anything worthwhile, I sit at these keys--these goddamned keys--and I tap away at ideas that mean everything. Raccoons with mange, clinging to trees. Families. Trying. And these days. Autumn to winter. The tired dreams. Eating away our time. ~ KJ

The Debate, Baseball and Life in Alpena, Michigan

The Debate, Baseball and Life in Alpena, Michigan (please, share as you like…thanks for the support) So much going on. In our little part of the world. Two men debating. And for what? Most of us have our minds made up. Driven not necessarily by what is right, but instead by whatever validates our thoughts. Our feelings. Our grand ideas of how life is supposed to be. When it begins. How it ends. And what we do in between. As if either of these two men will change the way I wake November 7th. Kiss my wife. Hug my kids. And go on about my day. But then again, I’m not afraid. And fear is exactly what it’s about. Someone’s gonna take my money. Take my God. My guns. My Big Gulp. And the saddest part of it is that the people that should be afraid are not. And then, we have the mighty Tigers. Playing against the Yankees. One state against another. One wallet against another. Men playing a game. People cheering. Booing. Art in power. Grace. Some people get it. Some do not. But one would suspect that if a person appreciates paintings, music and film then they too would appreciate baseball. The movement. The wait. The fact that these men train, practice, and do the one thing that they have loved since they were just little kids. Because the truth is most of us do not. We do what we’re told. What’s expected. What needs to be done. We work our jobs. Pay the bills. Put food on the table. Clothes on backs. And we tumble along through day after day—garbage day, grocery day, pay day—with a hard shell. Thick skin. Our Bible, our drugs, our drinks to get by. So that we are pleasantly surprised by little, unexpected parts of the day. Like getting out of the office. On a beautiful Tuesday morning. Getting your ass out of the cubicle. Away from the phone. The computer. And out to the shop. To the place where real men do the real work to make the machines that you sell. And as you walk toward the big building on a warm, blue-sky October day, thinking about your wife, your kids, how lucky you are to be living this small life far away from all the shit that seems to be ruining the world, you see a baseball bat. In a bucket. In the back of a pickup truck. And you see a opossum there too. Head split open. Curled up. Like a baby. Next to empty beer cans. And garbage. Just trying to keep warm. Breathing deeply. Slowly. In. Out. In. Out. Copyright © K.J. Stevens 2012 http://www.amazon.com/Cutting-Teeth-K-J-Stevens/dp/110563891X

Saturday, October 13, 2012

bottom to the top

I don’t care if I have to cut meat with a butter knife. Use paper plates. Or if the plastic forks don’t match the plastic spoons. And if we were rolling in the dough, you can be sure that we’d share as much as we could. So others could eat. Sleep soundly. Have sturdy roofs above and solid foundations below. A place to keep warm. Be safe. And call home. But, we’re different, I guess. Me and S.B. We appreciate things—especially the small ones—and when you care so much about all the little parts that make up the whole, life is good. You realize that imperfections are potential. Years of wear adds character. And there is nothing wrong with mismatched plastic ware. The light of the world breaks wide open when you learn how to make the best of a bad situation. And as much as I can figure, this little nugget of happiness is directly related to trial-and-error, personality, and whatever magic is working behind the scene. Numerous things that cannot be understood at the time, but are Truths once you pull yourself up. Wipe the blood from your nose. Shake cobwebs from your head. And fearlessly, take another swing. Like being at the bottom. Going without. Having hand-me-downs. Being second best. Recognizing your roots. Being mindful of the past. Reaching out. Giving. Creating connectedness. And always—and I mean always—pushing ahead with chin up, guts in check, being ready and willing to take on whatever the day offers. Which, in the whole scheme of things, isn’t a calendar boxed off with days. Or hands on a clock that go round and round. But a big space of unknown. So, here’s to waking. Another lighted morning. One more chance. To celebrate what we have. Working slowly, steadily—one word at a time—to get from the bottom to the top. ~ K.J. [Copyright (c) 2012 by K.J. Stevens] As always, share with others as you see fit. Thanks for reading. ~ Stevens