Indian Summer

Sample Chapter

“Destined For Greatness”

No one ever had to tell me to respect my elders.  If I ever did anything rude or obnoxious I’d hear about it and believe me, by the end of the day someone would have my ass in line.

“Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” my grandpa would say.  He was one of the very few people I knew who could take his own advice.  I think that’s why when he spoke, I listened.

He taught me everything.  He was a brilliant teacher, the kind of teacher they make movies about, the kind of teacher that makes you want to learn.  Almost everything in the world was open to interpretation, he had few rules.  The earliest memory of my grandpa was when we were driving to the Oakhill Park, I was eight years old.  I was never good at ‘just enjoying the ride.’  I needed to have something to do at all times.  In fact, this is one thing that hasn’t changed over the years.  I always need something to do.

Grandpa had a knack for stimulating activity and keeping my energy focused.  As we drove to Oakhill Park we quizzed each other on American history.  I always knew I would lose this game, but it was the way we played the game that kept me going.  He would always make sure that I understood how and why I lost.  In order to be good at something one must practice it over and over again.  This is what Grandpa taught me and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

The great thing about talking with Grandpa was the knowledge that everything had a point.  There was always something to be gained.  Anyone can engage in repetitious behavior, few learn from that behavior so that it doesn’t become repetitious in the future.  This was our thesis and it was proven every day.

I got out of the car in the parking lot at Oakhill Park and what I saw then is as clear today as it was then.  I saw open meadows and a tree-lined expanse that could have gone on forever, if given the chance.  The soft beckoning of the slowly whispering winds led us onward.  There were no trails or paths for us to follow.  Here you made your own path.  Oakhill Park was not a place for tours, even if they were self-guided.  This was a place where your mind was set free, like the blowing leaves recently separated from the trees.  The wind can guide you, but you set your own course.

Grandpa knew I loved to run around.  That’s the real reason he liked to take me to the park.  It was a tough job keeping up with me.  I was as my mother put it “quite a handful.”  On this particular day, our mission was to collect the best acorns for the squirrels in my neighborhood.

“If they come into your yard make sure they come for quality not quantity,” he said.

“The last thing you want is for Grandpa to step in a hole because not only will he take a couple people with him, you know as well as I do that Grandpa doesn’t fall well.”  I loved it when Grandpa talked in the third person.

He’d do it unknowingly at times, which was amusing because you never knew if he meant to do it or if he had done it to make sure you were paying attention.  This was vintage Grandpa.  He’d always do things like that, drop little subtle hints and if I figured it out he’d get so excited and proclaim: “that’s my pal!”

There were always rules when we played.  If one of us (usually me) didn’t play by the rules the game was over.  Grandpa said we couldn’t hide the acorns in the front yard anymore because most of the acorns we laid out wound up in Dad’s lawnmower.

“Let’s put them in Mom’s garden,” I suggested.  Grandpa laughed so hard I thought he was going to fall down.

“I learned a long time ago not to mess with your mother,” he said as he grinned from ear to ear.  He had a showstopper smile.  To this day his smile makes me smile, it reminds me of those afternoons in the park.  When he’d sit down and watch me running here, there, and everywhere, all the while smiling at the other parents proudly proclaiming as if he’d just won a medal “that’s my grandson, that’s my pal!”

When I got home we had even more fun.  Grandpa would pull into our driveway and I’d grab the two grocery store bags filled with acorns and try to run the length of the driveway to the backyard.  But, Grandpa would stop me.

“There’s no need to start going for the shovels just yet,” he said.

“Do you remember our presidents?”  He asked.  I was so excited to get those acorns into the ground I could barely contain myself so he’d repeat the question.

“Do you remember our presidents?”  He inquired.

“Of course!”  I shouted back at him.  It’s important to note that at this age you could have taken me to the dentist and I would have probably shown the same level of enthusiasm.

“Which one came first?”  He asked.  I had to think about it for a minute.

“He had a thing for trees just like we do,” he led on.

“Washington!”  I proclaimed.  His smile hit me like the morning sun hit me at the park, it kept me warm.  He handed me a one dollar bill and told me to hang onto it because we would need it later.  I tried to find a secure storage area on myself, but my clothes rarely had pockets, so I stuffed it way down in my sock so it wouldn’t slide out when I was digging later on.

I’d feel that soft, dry, crunchy bill sliding around in my sock for the rest of the day.  It stuck in there like a band aid sticks to your skin, only when I took that bill out my dirt-ridden sock at the end of the day, you’d swear it wasn’t currency in my hand.  It felt like, and smelt like something awful.  The cashier at Walgreens was not nearly as happy as I was that Grandpa had given me that dollar bill to hang on to, but that was the point Grandpa said.

“Sometimes you just need to freshen people up,” he said.  He truly did have the oddest sense of humor.  For what it’s worth, the lady that checked us out at Walgreens would remember us for the next five years.  I think that made Grandpa happy.

“You can never have too many friends,” he said and I looked at him with the most puzzled expression I’ve ever worn, but he just kept on going.  Grandpa never let anything slow him down.

Grandpa loved the beauty of life and it’s simple pleasures.  Sometimes we think of people and we picture what would make them happiest.  Grandpa would have been perfectly happy being the skipper on a steamboat on the Mississippi circa 1845 or so.  He’d be able to see the country, play poker and while making a stop he could grab his bat and mit and join the locals for some baseball.

I imagine he’d make some stops up along the Mason-Dixon Line so he could spend some time at the track watching the horses and betting on the races.  All of this would have made Grandpa a very happy man.  The only problem is that in the game of life, Grandpa was an incredibly unlucky man.

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  1. The Dinner Party, a Novella in 11 Chapters, with Endnotes, Chapter One
    JUNE 22, 2014 / DOUGSTUBER / EDIT
    Chapter One

    Dinner Party

    Monica Corcoran, Jerry Garcia, Bob Marley and Katherine B. were sitting next to James Rodgers, Jack, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ashley Martin at a dinner party. They had been invited by Corcoran, to sit in a ganohses (longhouse) halfway down the east side of Canandaigua Lake. The year was 1622. Blue Lake stories pervaded as Virginia Woolf walked in with a subdued Nostradamus, Catherine the Great and Wasily Kandinsky. Tad Stuber and “Stephanie” lounged in with Jessica, Jeanne Larsen and Duane Allman.
    The pow-wow was set to see who could do the most to stop Europeans from coming across the ganyodeowaneh. Or, at least insert the native culture deep within the collective psyche of the oncoming tribes of explorers. News of men from the ocean arrived before this party. Scouts on the eastern edge of the Haudenosaunee nations had already heard of the Puritans landing in a place they named Plymouth.
    Corcoran was amazed that no natives were around to greet them. She decided to explain a little more about her intentions for the dinner party.
    “I can’t believe this party is happening, but you should listen up. My friend and I decided to have this party in order to help the natives fend off the Europeans. We’re here to save this place for them,” she said.
    A few invitees started to grumble. James, Ashley and Tad in particular were anxious about their surroundings.
    “I was just sitting around my dorm room one day when this crazy bass player asked if we had ever played the game ‘dinner party’ before. I told him I never heard of it. Anyway, the game is simple: we invited some of our favorite people here so we could get to know them. The thing is, we got to invite anyone from history that we wanted to.”
    “So why on earth did you invite me?” Stephanie asked.
    “I don’t know. I thought you were one of his better choices actually,” Corcoran responded.
    “Well, at least we came with the stuff we had on us. I think the whole thing is
    bullshit. I’m going outside to play, anyone interested,” Jack said as he waived a lemon-sized sack of bean-bag beans in the air.
    A few followed him our the door. Jack rested the hacky-sack on his forehead then started a round with Jessica, Katherine B., Kandinsky and Allman.
    Amidst errant volleys, Jack suggested a conspiracy. “Pirates, only equipped with cigarette boats and huge chains. Just turn them away.”
    “A peaceful thought but it won’t work,” Katherine B. interjected.
    “Maybe a war would keep them away,” Tad said. “We could borrow some toys from the Pentagon and keep this place safe forever.”
    “Unless you’re better at time jumping than I am, I don’t think that will work out,” Allman said. “Who are you anyway?”
    “Tad’s the name, and I say that the only way to conserve this space is to bomb the heck out of the invaders. The technology will blow them back into the dark ages.”
    Bob Marley overhears from behind a birch branch in the house. He’s unimpressed. “Look, it’s not the people, it’s the greed, and the technology itself that stink!”
    “We need to make sure the continent remains agrarian,” Martin said, peering over smashed beans and corn meal.
    (Not knowing Martin, the author assumes she knows what she’s talking about. But she said it, so that’s that.)
    The ganohses they have landed in is one set up for special meetings. Highly decorated mats make sitting on the ground a little more comfortable for the 20th century visitors. Nostradamus sat in a corner meditating. No mat needed.
    Now Duane Allman was not a good hacky player. The poor boy tried, and after being teased by Kandinsky, quit. Wassily quit too, opting to take Stephanie and Jessica behind the bushes for an artist/model strategy session. Because he was so used to painting abstracts, Kandinsky had to remember how to instruct the Russian methods of posing before teaching it. He hadn’t used a model in years, but their figures were compelling. He only had a few colors and two canvasses, so he knew each stroke would have to count. The session didn’t last long.
    Catherine the Great, now free to ponder the fate of America, suggested: “A new
    poverty. That’s what this continent needs. Mindless serfs with pure loyalty to our ideals. The natural resources should only be in the hands of those who know how to use them.”
    “How obvious,” Marley quipped.
    “There has to be a way to get to the heart of the problem. We need to meet with these people and get them motivated as soon as possible,” C. the G. suggests.
    “Motivated to do what?” Woolf asked.
    “To fight to save their homeland!”
    “It doesn’t matter what they do. The enslaving tactics of the Europeans will either wipe them out, or use them like they used the Africans. I don’t think our little band of do-gooders is going to be able to win a war against all of Europe,” Marley said.
    Tad, overhearing all this added: “Look, around here I think it was the French who came in first. We wouldn’t have to hold off all of Europe.”
    Marley, not wanting to stay involved in war talk, meandered over to Allman. He recognized Duane from the album cover of “Live at Fillmore East”. It was one of the albums Marley cherished.
    “Aren’t you Duane Allman?”
    “Sure am.”
    “What do you think about all of this?”
    “I can’t believe I’m in the middle of some ancient times. Why did I show up with my motorcycle and electric guitar, when they are useless?”
    “Don’t know, but I’d trade ten cups of this tea for just one cup of coffee,” Marley said, trying to tip off his identity.
    “‘One Cup of Coffee,’ wasn’t that an obscure Bob Marley side from the early sixties?”
    “Guess so. Who do you think you’re talking to?”
    “Oh my God! I’m sorry man, I didn’t recognize you. Your hair should have given it away,” Allman said.
    “This is great, we can have a serious jam.”
    “I saw a teenager with a guitar walking around too,” Allman said. “He’s got an old Martin, a real beauty. Maybe we should get together.”
    “Sounds good to me, let’s go find the guy with the guitar,” Marley said, smiling.
    While the two musicians went in search of Garcia, Tolkien was holding court with Mr. Rodgers and Ashley Martin.
    “To limit the free choice of America’s inhabitants is unfair, yet allowing Europeans to wipe out the Indians is also unfair. It seems to me that the Indians could have lived here indefinitely without spoiling the place. We need to find a way to let them have it,” he said in a rather thick French accent.
    Martin and Rodgers were speechless.
    Jessica and Stephanie, accompanied by Kandinsky, returned to the ganohses and interrupted Nostradamus’ meditation.
    “Hi, I’m Stephanie, what’s your name?”
    No response.
    “Excuse us for interrupting your meditation, but we were wondering why you weren’t introducing yourself,” Jessica said.
    “My name is Nostradamus.”
    “Nostradamus!?” Kandinsky exclaimed.
    “Not the guy Orson Welles went on and on about?” Stephanie asked.
    “Excuse me, but I am simply a French monk. I have studied the stars and meditated about the future. Apparently, I am now in the future.”
    “The future? What century do you come from?” Stephanie asked.
    “Not even one-hundred years ago, by my guess. This must be some type of second life, but I do not recognize the way you dress, or the area we are in.”
    “My name is Jessica. I was a housewife living on the outskirts of a city called Charlottesville, Virginia in the 20th Century before I died.
    “I was a model,” Stephanie said.
    “No doubt about that,” Kandinsky confirmed.
    Nostradamus, struck by their beauty, pondered cashing vows for a four-way. This type of kinky thought rarely infected the brain waves of Nostradamus, but everything was weird to him at this point. He had predicted he would return in the future, but hadn’t thought it would be so soon after his death.
    Wassily, looking at fate from the monk’s perspective, wondered if it was worth it to try to help, as he was invited to do, or whether painting and living life to the fullest were a valid response to the place he had been put into.
    At the main meeting table, Garcia, a 20th century minstrel ponders the situation.
    He had lived an entire life in the 20th Century. He can almost remember that, but he feels and acts much younger now. All he can distinctly remember about the 20th century was taking a trip with a friend to attend a bluegrass festival in Galax, Virginia.
    They had started out in a broken down car from California. His friend got more and more disgruntled as they drove through the desert, blew the transmission and had to start hitch-hiking. Somewhere around Las Vegas, his friend had given up. Undaunted, Garcia continued the trek, guitar in hand.
    He remembered arriving a day late, but instantly started jamming around a huge tent with Doc Watson, the blind bluegrass legend who was the most legitimate incarnation of the music that had been transported to the hills of West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky from Ireland in the 18th Century. Garcia realized the importance of the occasion. It was as a teenager, with guitar in hand that he arrived in Ganandauguay.
    Garcia: “People will follow their hearts no matter what we do. Earth is here to respond to those needs. It will make the adjustments as necessary. If humans waste their chance here, earth will dispatch them.”
    “Dispatch, dispatch, the question here is what to do with Europeans,” Woolf clarifies. “It’s not fair for me because the people from my island escaped injustice and followed their hearts. Then they wiped out the Indians, as if that was what God wanted.”
    This statement caused a stir in Nostradamus, so he walked over to the table.
    “God!” Nostradamus screamed, “what you know of God is minimal, but listen to this theory: planets around the universe go through relatively the same cycle. First, the animal life finds a way to use up the resources. When and if the inhabitants escape, they try to warn the next planet. Thus, the bible, me, and the inevitable. About 10% of the idiot planets don’t develop far enough before they’re used up. You can count on earth being one of these, and it all started with the greed of the United States, dear Virginia.”
    {I saw an Eskimo walking with a huge pack in an ethereal fog the other day, right
    here in Roanoke, Virginia, Virginia.} (1991)
    Meanwhile, Duane began to shape extra guitar-like instruments from cat-gut and

    crafted sticks he borrowed from newfound Indian friends. Duane’s own guitar, a red hollow-body 1956 Gibson was meant to be played through an amplifier, but the hollow
    body made it almost loud enough to hear over the loud singing blues of Garcia and Bob Marley. Larsen sat in on a homemade bass, with Corcoran on drums.
    Larsen’s playing could be described as rhythmic. The correct pitch was hard to come by, as her instrument was less effective than the old washtub-broomhandle-string set-up made famous in bluegrass jug bands.
    Corcoran’s “drumming” made reggae out of the question, but she at least kept up. She was using three ceremonial drums borrowed from the back of the meeting room. Garcia lead the singing of the ad-libbed first song, with Marley harmonizing with a vocal howl a third above in the verse and a third or fifth below in the chorus.
    Garcia played rhythm guitar on Allman’s Gibson, while Allman used Garcia’s 1952 Martin to play lead slide guitar.

    Ganandauguay

    There’s a special chosen place that’s caused some nasty wars.
    We dropped in from all over, this place isn’t like before.
    And if you love your good neighbor,
    We’ll let you stay here some more.

    Chorus: I’m going to get back to the Ganandauguay blues.
    I’m going to jump back in to the Ganandauguay blue.
    My mind is blown by the beauty,
    Won’t you come and join me too?

    We got pretty little ladies, such wonderful sights to see.
    We got nature in our souls and our minds are finally free.
    And if you think you’re happy now,
    Wait until you come in swimming with me.

    Chorus

    (Here Duane took a major lead, drawing looks of awe from some natives who had just emerged from the woods.)

    We got to keep the place as clean as it was before.
    It’s been so long since this place has seen a war.
    So why don’t you join me,
    And we’ll find a way to even the score.

    Chorus

    There’s a special chosen place that’s caused some nasty wars.
    We got people from all over we never met before.
    And if you love your good neighbor,
    We’ll let you stay here some more.

    * * *
    The song ended, with natives apparently howling their approval. They had snuck in unnoticed.
    They didn’t understand a word of the lyrics, but the primitive music fit their style.
    The reason the natives were howling had nothing to do with the music. They were screaming to drive these white ghosts away. Two bows are drawn before Darting Sparrow, an up and coming young fighter, stepped in to stop what would have been an instant massacre of the invitees.
    “Enihe!” Darting Sparrow shouted. {It means “stop”.}
    The evening is setting in, which makes the tension between the two groups increase with each passing firefly.
    Larsen starts to work out a sign language with Darting Sparrow.
    “Look, I think he understands that we have come from the future,” she said to Virginia Woolf.
    “As long as what you are saying keeps him from turning on us, we’ll be all right,” Woolf responded.
    “He’s too young to have any authority,” Kandinsky pointed out.
    “But if he’s a scout, we need to convince him we’re on his side, or we could all get killed before we even know what year it is, no less where the heck we are,” Larsen said.
    Larsen pulled out a handkerchief and made it into the shape of a heart. She opened her hand and closed it on the hanky to make the representation of a beating heart. She then held the beating heart to her chest and made a motion like she was pulling her own heart out of her chest. She danced around with bent knees and showed the heart to all the natives. Again they howled.
    “He eh ni ye” Darting Sparrow said. {Loosely translated – don’t do that.}
    It really was scaring some scouts, other were just mad that she was able to one-up

    Darting Sparrow. He had to get her back, but then Larsen offered him the hanky.
    Again the crowd howled.
    Larsen bent on her knee, kept the heart throbbing, and again offered it to Darting Sparrow. Darting Sparrow smiled and accepted the heart. He even showed the cloth to his companions, and pretended to keep the heart beating.
    This display lasted long enough for more natives to arrive. The meeting house was the destination of the Turtle clan. The Turtle clan ran through the Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, Mohawk and Onodowaga. Even though they had previously had wars with these other tribes, the members of the Onodowaga, Turtle clan had a closer relationship with other Turtle clan members from the other tribe, than most of the members of other clans in their own tribe.
    Since Larsen and her friends had arrived in the Snipe clan’s meeting house, it was going to be up to the Turtle clan to accept them, banish them, torture them or kill them.
    Darting Sparrow repeated the heart demonstration to the elders of his clan. Larsen again tried to explain in sign language that they were from the future. The clan decided to take their discovery to the entire meeting that night.
    Jessica, Stephanie and Katherine B. were already getting some attention from their native hosts. The men were smiling at them. The women were pawing at their clothes.
    “Agwas do ges ogethae henoyo goh ganoohgwa sha,” Darting Sparrow said. {It’s really true, I talked [to them] they come in love.}
    The elders talked about their guests and seemed to trust Darting Sparrow’s faith in their peaceful intentions. Jack almost ruined it for everybody when coming inside from his hacky-sack game.
    “What’s going on here, for Christ’s sakes,” Jack said in a rough sarcastic tone.
    “Cool it Jack, Jeanne went through a pantomime that convinced the Indians we were coming in peace. I don’t think they like your tone,” Jessica said.
    “Tone!? They’re the ones howling all the time! Here we are stuck out in the middle of the woods in God knows which century and you’re going to knit-pick about tone? You’re more uptight than your hoity-toity Charlottesville neighbors!”
    “Look Jack,” Katherine B. interjected, “first of all, don’t get on the Shenandoah valley, I live there too. Secondly, keep it down. If the natives get the idea that we’re not united then they won’t treat us all the same. the way I see it, we have the upper hand. They may even treat us as special guests as long as we remain calm and act like mature adults.”
    “All right then, it’s starting to get dark, who’s going to sleep where, and with whom?”
    “You’re a pig, Jack,” Katherine B. said.
    The argument humored the natives. Jeanne walked over to the combatants.
    “Look, we’ve got to be a little more civil. These people are now laughing at you. We have a chance to impress them with our knowledge. Our first goal has to be to communicate with them. If we can’t impress them, we’ll be dead.”
    “We don’t have to impress anybody. This is like a second life for me. I’m going to have fun at it. I don’t give a rat’s ass about why we were “invited” here by some sophomore. I mean she’s fairly cute, but I don’t have to date the hostess. You seem like you’ve got your head on straight. What do you say we blow this meeting house and go out by the fire?” “No thanks.”
    “Fine,” Jack said as he turned to Jessica and the others. “Anybody up for a little sing around the campfire?”

    ><

    “The Dinner Party,” a novella in 11 chapters plus endnotes, copyright, Doug Stuber, 1992. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given, and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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