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Tales from the Hole #4 Fear #5

I just got a letter from a friend. As soon as I saw it in the mailbox I felt a stab of fear. Wonder what I did wrong.

Lets see what it says: “Thank you Ken for your encouraging notes of love and appreciation. I am thankful to be your friend”

Yeah, but what was he really thinking?

Carnivore

Last week I was running down the sidewalk near my house (no, it’s not what you think. I was not running from anything or anyone. I was just jogging, innocently jogging) when I spied a cat directly in my intended pathway. He (she?) pretended not to notice me but I knew better so I ran out into the middle of the street to avoid the very real danger to life and limb.

Thought bubble:

As I sprinted past my nemesis, pace quickening and slackening in inverse proportion with the distance from claw and fang, I wondered about the statistics concerning domestic cat attacks on joggers nationwide in, say, the last decade. I don’t have those stats in front of me right at this moment but I’ll bet the carnage is enormous. We are a nation besieged man-eating predators

I read someplace that people who have been sexually abused often are laden with irrational fears. I think that’s psychological clap-trap. Suck it up. Get over it, I always say. “Perfect love casts out fear…You have not been given the spirit of fear…” Catch my drift?

Oddly, though, I do have a slight fear of water. It rarely impacts my life, except, of course, when I’m near a lake, river, fountain, or the ocean. Actually any body of water more than a foot across.

Or in the shower.

Tales from the Hole #4 Fear #4

I am not afraid of liver and onions (with catsup), however. I often go the Overlook Restaurant off Interstate: order a senior portion of the aforementioned gastronomical delights and,  quite literally, eat the whole thing!

Bet you can’t say that.

Sissy.

Raw Materials

When his purposes (at my tender age I could only guess what they were) were fulfilled, my “lesson” was over. He took me back to the campfire where I sat in the shadows, too terrified to speak. It was some 30 or 40 years before I uttered my first words about the incident to another human being. I was 60 years old before I felt any anger at what was done to me by the teen vampire who has lapped up so much of my life…

Tales from the Hole #4 Fear #3

I’m terrified that you will laugh at me if I make a stupid mistake. I’m afraid that you think I’m ridiculous already.

… Snakes, lizards, newts, salamanders, frogs, toads. Oh, hell, all reptiles and amphibians. I could have a heart attack or maybe a stroke. Then you’d be sorry.

Inevitably, of course, his hand found its way inside my swim trunks.

Once, summoning all the courage I could muster, I implored, “M-m-maybe w-we could go in now. It’s after d-d-dark.” His response to my gross insubordination was to submerge my head below the surface of the water hold it there until I knew I would drown. After a while he would oh-so-slowly lift my face above the surface, just barely enough for me to cough and sputter a few gulps of air into my depleted lungs and then suggest that the lesson was not yet over. I quickly learned to keep my ideas to myself…

Tales from the Hole #4 Fear #2

I’m afraid that you, or anyone else for that matter, won’t like me.

Caterpillars, grubs, worms, maggots, you know, evil vermin; absolutely frightening, disgusting as well. Deborah has a worm farm, or rather, worm ranch. Perhaps the largest such spread in North Portland. I looked into their box (pasture? range? corral?) one day as she was feeding them (yes, she actually wants them to grow and multiply! Don’t tell a soul, but she talks to those things ,too).  My God, they have no eyes…and they…they…wiggle. I think I’m going to be sick…

And so he walked me back and forth, me dog paddling, nose and mouth barely above the waterline, in water that was just up to his waist. Along about dusk I noticed that he was pressing his groin against the side of my body. It gradually seeped into my consciousness that he had an erection. At age 8 I was extremely naïve but I knew something was up (forgive the pun) and that it wasn’t good. I was terrified and sickened and ashamed…

Tales from the Hole #4 Fear #1

Let’s see now, where were we? Oh, yeah, I remember… I said that I am afraid of almost everything. That’s an accurate portrayal of my internal mental circuitry, I believe. It’s been the same schematic for as long as I can remember. What causes that, I don’t know.

Spiders, centipedes, millipedes, ticks,  grasshoppers, June bugs, cockroaches, periwinkles,  house flies, potato bugs, those giant South American beetles that have that single horn in the middle of their head, ants, and anything else bug-wise that creepeth and/or crawleth along the ground. Scary.

If my phone rings I know its somebody who is going to tell me that I did something wrong. It’s the same if someone leaves a message saying, “Call me.”

Summer, 1952 or 53. Alta Lake, in Eastern Washington.

I can’t remember his name. Don’t know if I ever knew it. He was a teenager, kind of generic looking, but for some reason he gave me a creepy feeling when he was around. I was at Alta Lake with the Giddings family and he was the son of Gary’s parent’s friends. Gary, by the way, was my friend. At some point he (creepy guy) offered to teach me how to swim. I was about eight years old at the time and did not know how (afraid of the water, you see). I passionately did not want to be  his student but everyone else seemed to think it was a good idea. Being a compliant kid (afraid to express my fears or desires) I agreed to the tutorial…

Tales from the Hole #3 Reverie Interrupted

Hole in the Ground has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. I can’t believe the clouds, majestic march across the sky…Oooo, I’m waxing poetic…what’s this? Dog poop? Here? Looks fresh. Maybe coyote. Gee, that would be awesome to see one.

In the midst of my reverie I am startled by a great, mottled gray form. Big, beautiful with steely yellowish-tan eyes. The biggest coyote I’ve ever seen. Once my startle is over I’m thoroughly intrigued. We stare at each other for half a minute or more.  As I’m examining him the creature takes two steps towards me and bares his teeth in a movie snarl. The adrenaline jolt surges into my system and my knees almost buckle. My calves are instantly sore. I take two steps back and turn to walk away only to be confronted by another coyote bigger than the first, black with a broken fang that is revealed as it bares its teeth and snarls. These are wolves!

Oh, my God, they’re going to attack me.

Reaching into my pocket to get the hunting knife that Brooks gave me for my Walkabout I spot a third beast. As I pull the knife from my pocket and open it, it slips from my fingers. Reaching down to retrieve it I see in a flash one of the animals lunge for my face. Pain and shock. In the midst of the chaos I fixate on its breath, hot and putrid. The smell of death. Grabbing the knife I jab blindly upward until I feel it contact and pop through the soft belly skin. My attacker lets out a shriek and releases its hold on my cheek. It falls to the ground panting as its guts spill out into the dirt. It eyes me blandly, without malice.

I hope that the loss of a comrade will end their bloodthirsty quest, but it soon becomes clear that, while backing off for a moment, they are merely regrouping to pursue me once again. Why me? Why now? God, where are you?

I flail wildly with my short dagger trying to take another one out. The gray one that I first encountered lunges at me and I swing the knife ineffectually its direction. I am unaware of a smaller tan wolf behind me but as I flail at Gray it digs into my Achilles. The tendon tears with the sickening snap.

I’m on the ground now rolling this way and that, flailing wild;y, in a vain attempt to keep my attackers at bay. Now Tan has my knife hand and is shaking it with demonic fury. I can see them all closing in. Five, maybe six. I can’t fight anymore. I can’t move. My muscles refuse obey my frantic commands.

I just want to sleep and have this over. Blackie lunges at my face, his yellow teeth now stained with my blood.

That breath, oh God,  that breath…

The story you just read is true, except there were no wolves, I wasn’t at Hole in the Ground when it happened and, obviously, I did not die. But the emotions were real, the terror was real and, in the the vividness of my imagination, the scene was as close as it gets to real. Fear. Fear attacked me as I was driving to hole in the ground. No wolves, but the dementia produced by fear gave me a full set of emotions including but not limited to: rage, terror and panic.

As I talked about my upcoming trip, Kentucky Chris said, “You’d better bring a knife because of bears and big cats.” Somebody else said, “Did you know that wolves are back in Oregon now?” Someone else, “I just saw on OPB that grizzlies are showing up in the mountains.” I think that started it, or at least started it this time.

You see, I’m afraid of nearly everything.

Tales from the Hole. #2 Questions Without Answers

Here’s what I wanted to happen on my walkabout: I wanted God to show up and meet with me. I wanted to connect with The Creator’s earth. (what do our Native American friends know about creation that we Western Christians don’t? Lots.) I wanted to hear my new name spoken from God’s and I wanted to know my final life purpose. It seems to me that I’m on my last lap in the sense that I’ve got 20 years max left for productive doings. I got to make this count. I’ve wasted a lot of time that I’ll never get back.

Camp

Did he show up? I’m not really sure. There were a few moments where I sensed a connection to God’s earth. I woke up one morning with a new name(?) Life purpose(?) But it’s really hard to say. Anticlimactic, at best.

My waiting place. A circle in the sand.

A lot of time by myself, thinking, praying, meditating. Three teardrops, maybe four, of the ocean of tears held back by… I don’t know what… landed on the ground. Grief, sorrow, joy and my Great Sadness waiting to be wept out…nada.

View from my waiting place

On Friday I jounced the 4 miles back to Highway 31 and as I approached the blacktop in my truck I felt the same catch in my throat when I realized that my dad was never coming back. I turned right and pointed my faithful Blazer towards home.

Fortunately, I’ve totally dodged the abandonment issues bullet. Can you rejoice with me?

Tales from the Hole #1

A few months ago I came to the dawning realization that my life was stagnating a bit.

“I know,” I thought, “I’ll get a new pair of shoes.” What better way to ward off a flattened out life than with a new pair of shoes? You get that, don’t you? So, off to Nordstrom Rack I scurried in beautiful downtown Portland, OR.

They were awesome! Tan, rough suede, low boot height with the zipper up the back! A real departure!  An amazing stretch for a basically conservative guy like myself. I exaggerate only slightly by suggesting that this was Portland’s fashion coup (pronounced “coupe”) of the decade.

Now you’d think that a new pair shoes like that, boots rather, would have lasted me for a few months life-angst-wise, but no, it was soon back with a vengence so next, naturally, I tried sport eating. That always works, no matter what, that always works. Best fallback ever. I’m not sure that the science is entirely in on this issue but it seems to me that there is some correlation between the amount of food ingested and the size of a person’s waistline. Maybe that’s an over-generalization. What I should say is: the more I ate the fatter I got. The gustatory pleasure was immense (but fleeting) but the blubber was, in a word, just: immense. Not fleeting at all.

So, what to do? Then it hit me: I’ll do a Walkabout, a Vision Quest, a search for God. Once the idea was formed in my mind I began telling people about it, or rather, blabbing to anyone who would listen. In that way I entirely trapped myself into having to do it.

Ken Loyd prior to Walkabout. A boy.

On Monday, September 13, 2010 right around 10 o’clock in the morning I pointed my little blue Chevy Blazer southeastward, over the mountains. About 25 miles southeast of La Pine I turned off Highway 31 onto a dirt road and jounced around for 4 miles, finally arriving at Hole In The Ground. Hole in the Ground is, as you might already have guessed, a hole in the ground. A big one. In fact it’s a mile across and 500 feet deep. Phreatomagmatic eruption blah blah and all that but basically it’s a really big hole in the ground.

For the next four days I sat on the edge and waited or walked around the edge and listened, hoping that God would show up and answer my questions.

Ken Loyd last morning of Walkabout. A man.

Wheels

Hey, Steve! This guy comes up to me on Sunday. Cledus? Jester? Jake? I don’t remember who, and said, “Wheels is dead.”

Wheels? Wheels? I don’t know any wheels.

“Sure you do, he was the guy with the hand truck, the furniture dolly, whatever you call it.”

And then I knew. You are gone, dead, finito. I was in the middle of things, too busy to sit down and bury my face and cry. I had to keep going since there were a couple hundred friends there under the bridge. Hungry ones. Towards the end of the month, you know.

So, didn’t know your name was “Wheels.” When I first met you, two or three years ago, I said my name is Ken and you said something like my name is “Stffvaaa.” Perhaps you were a bit tipsy but I took that to mean that your name was Steve. Indeed it was, and is.  But I think I figured out how the “Wheels” thing came about. When we first met you had all of your crap in black garbage and Safeway bags. They were always tearing and your stuff was always falling out but then one day you sailed in under the bridge with that yellow hand truck and kind of this mesh thing and all your stuff neatly inside. “Wheels.” I totally get it.

Over the years your story came out, or at least parts of it. This is what I remember: you had a wife whom you adored, a house in Beaverton or Hillsboro or Aloha (one of those cities out West) and a window washing business. Things were good for you, Steve, and your wife and your house and your business. Then came the cancer. Since you couldn’t afford medical insurance in your small business you had to pay out of your own pocket and it eventually cost you your house and your business. Then she died. It’s happened to millions in this country that doesn’t take care of its own. But it happened to you.

Steve, I don’t know if you were a drinker before she got sick or after. It doesn’t matter much now. It probably didn’t then, either. This is what I imagine: maybe a few extra drinks to ease the pain of loss. Over time those few drinks a day became more drinks and before you knew it the sauce was the thing. It’s happened to me. Over and over again.

And yet you were always cheerful with your funny little laugh and your sideways smile and that kind of conspiratorial way of talking even when you weren’t telling a secret. You loved me. You cared for me. It mattered to you if I was doing well or if I was doing poorly. And when I started getting sober you encouraged me and you asked me every week, “how many days now, Ken?” But you didn’t come along on my sober ride. I wish you had.

Yesterday, we had a memorial for you, talked about you. Somehow, I had hoped that you would show up, alive. But no such luck. Just my little pipe load of denial, I guess. Joker said that you had tagged your own corner not far from the Hawthorne. “Wheels Corner.” It’ll always be yours. Lots of us cried out loud. Many more must have got something in their eye.

At the cop circle

If I had known, my friend, that you were on your way out I would have run to you and put your head in my lap and touched your face with my hand and accompanied you to the corner of eternity, the corner where Jesus hangs out waiting for his own. In the old days we were called publicans and sinners, nowadays, homeless, drunks, addicts…losers. His favorite folks. He waits for folks like you and me on that corner. Folks not very good at doing life. Folks failing more than we succeed. We seem to be okay with him, though. Just being us is good enough.

I like to think some of our folks were there to greet you. Scotty, a tender heart wrapped in a nasty attitude and Amber with her wet, alcohol drenched kisses and Joan, red hair and fiery green eyes and maybe even Charlie with his gimpy leg. Taken down by alcohol or dope or both one and all, but now free at last.

But I wasn’t there when you died. And so I went home Sunday and cried. I wept for my loss. I wept the life that ripped you off. I wept for a nation and a church that doesn’t care about guys like you. I wept.

I love you, my friend. If you think of it, when it’s my time, wait for me on that corner with Jesus and we’ll laugh again.

Walkin’ Tall. Part two.

So I’ve talked to a few (four) folks since I published the original story a week or so ago. Out of a total readership numbering, oh, about seven, that’s a majority.

My assumption was, and I emphasize the was part, that the subtle irony of the part true, part fiction account would be evident to the gentle reader.

But that was not to be…

Let me set the record straight:

The grass is always greener on the other side, unless Chuck Norris has been there. In that case the grass is most likely soaked in blood and tears. True

Chuck Norris invented water. False. Chuck Norris invented hot water.

Chuck Norris has never blinked in his entire life. Never. False. Chuck Norris on one occasion swallowed a 90-day supply of Ambien™ and blinked. Once.

I did not actually see Chuck Norris in the Starbucks (but I sensed his presence).

I did get a gift card for Starbucks from a friend in Seattle and originally guestimated it to be in the five to ten dollar range. Its actual value was fifty dollars.

I did not turn down a request for help with coffee by anyone that day. That was, I thought, a cleverly conceived use of the literary device known as “irony.” I figured that my readership, some of whom have GEDs, would be subtle enough to pick up on the nuanced humor. None did. One suggested that I must have been in a hurry. Another said, simply, “Cheap asshole.” So to explain: A guy gets a fifty dollar gift card for doing nothing and turns around and refuses a request for coffee with $46.50 in his pocket. An allegory (or is that metaphor?) of the blessed being pinchpennies. I was going to add as the last sentence of the story, “A guy has to protect the blessings God sends his way. That’s just good stewardship. Right?” But I figured that was too heavy handed on the sarcasm and way too obvious.

Apparently not.

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