Category Archives: Fiction

Dunbar

     ‘Why John, I see you’ve decided then to go ahead and eat’, said the grizzled one. As the bachelor spoke the words he spat a gob of brown juice into the circular brass spittoon. John watched the ripples gently roll back and forth beneath the foamy yellow and brown surface.
     ‘Yep, what’s a couple of burgers, right? I’ve been eating a lot of fish lately, so let it go. Fish is spendy, by the way. At any rate, one would think that today, Steve, of all the periods one can fathom, things might have changed but honestly all the modern era has accomplished is to give one greater headaches than might have been the case ages ago when man did not wrangle with the grandiose technology morass that haunts our beings each minute of each day. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the benefits of the internet in my workplace. We are able to do more work more efficiently, but one may as well eat and be merry too, Steve. That’s my general take. Enjoy the kids while they’re still in the house and then let things run their course’. As John spoke he watched Steve’s grey eyes roll back into his head, the aged brow wrinkle and the cracked lips grin a faint hint of consternation.
     ‘So you’re enjoying burgers due to the culture of the day? What are we discussing here, John? Headaches. Are we talking about your relationship with Milly, or the office environment, or river conditions, or, well, where exactly are we going with this conversation, John? Let’s focus on the latter part of your remark, bud’.
     ‘Where’d you get that old spittoon, Steve’? John interrupted.
     ‘Echidna’s on First Street. It’s a great old shop, but don’t change the conversation, John. Not too long ago it was the artist who fought the battles of the day. You understand, John. Today, matters are played out in the social media arena. I mean, I hate to use the term artist with such broad application but the reality is that each of the available mediums, name the one of your choice, well, they’re all the same, John, each utilized by all walks. “All walks” being today’s artists who express their thoughts, each being channeled to their cadre of fellow wonks. Society is filled with photographers, writers of prose and poetry, musicians, artists, John; experts in one fashion or another and in most cases, honestly, pretty creative wonks at that – quick learners. Beauty has become more broad today. Harder to pin down. “Express yourself” has all new meaning, Old Shoe. Most folks are not looking to make a buck through ads, right? Simply expression. Truly, John, consider the avalanche. I’m talking about the gradual demise of old media, one example. This is old news. Modern expression is vast, propriety altered. Remember when it was simply the big three anchors on the tube? Well, John, and I suppose this is a haughty attitude, a shade contra to my former remarks, but as you know, I’m in retirement and my experiences are fairly vast. At any rate, haughty means high brow, looking down on others, correct? Well, I maintain there are many creative types out there who never knew they had it in ‘em. It’s like the athlete who suddenly discovers later in life that he has a big engine. Who’s to say what’s to be read and enjoyed and what not? Right? If many people want to follow some bloke who the two of us agree seems off base or has the world all wrong, are we really one to say, “Hey, what the hell is wrong with people”?, or, “What do they see in this fellow or lady”’? Steve bent back in the rocker placing his hands behind his head, silver hair flipped back along the temples below the stained Chapo.
     ‘Well, that’s quite a bit Steve. You’re not much older than me and lucky to be retired at such a young age. You know my take. I’ve just wrapped up a nice meal and am trying to enjoy the sunshine this evening; right here from your porch’s dilapidated wooden boards. Most of the matters in this conversation are immaterial to me, Steve. I’m going against the grain. See, look at the planks and see the rocking motion of this old rocker. The only thing I’ll say is that I think kids should still learn to write cursive and not be so subjected to education by images. Much of what kids take in today outside of the classroom is of little value. Beyond this little matter, I’m indifferent, Steve. Let the world spin as it will. After all, in the past people always grouped together given some bonding element. You know, newspapers, plays, music, whatever. Today, it’s more in one’s face and it’s our neighbors and friends who are doing the educating and influencing. “Neighbors” has all new application today, right? The internet has brought a new perspective. Are the vulgar of less value than the well educated, the establishment, the elite? The trouble is when the herd latches onto something someone puts out there from left or right field and it circles the globe and, well… something most often immaterial becomes relevant. Might this be “art” today’? John put his fingers in the air making quotations. ‘The two of us agree we’re much better off spending our time with an old hardback or bamboo rod than reading the ads among the scrawl. I just like sitting here having a beer and eating burgers as the sun gradually fades in the West, Steve. Note just below the horizon there, the beams glimmering through those stands just in the distance’.
     Following a swig, Joe, an aged English Setter, rolled over beneath John’s feet. He gently scratched the dog’s belly as a Meadowlark sounded in the Cottonwoods above the gentle brook south of Steve’s property. It was a fine old place Steve had inherited from his uncle about a decade ago. Ernie Jackson had died following a short bout with kidney cancer. At the time, Steve had taken his uncle’s tragic death quite hard, leaning heavily during the dark times on his long time childhood friend John who each subsequent year had helped Steve get through the long Colorado winters. Steve never married though he lived with Melissa Miller for many years. Following Ernie’s death, Melissa had been a steady hand for Steve. The two, however, finally separated a few years back given the typical tendencies of lengthy relationships with limited commonality. Initially the two had fished together and spent days often in the field during autumn pursuing mountain grouse. Gradually their enthusiasm appeared to wane and the two were no longer noticed spending time together in their pursuits.
     The property, about fifty acres with timber and open glades, was situated about a mile or so downstream from the small town of Dunbar. It was located just above the fractured banks of the Shaver, a well established trout fishery. Ernie, who had been an avid fisherman, had picked up the place on the cheap during the real estate decline and recession of the early nineties. Moss covered much of the slate roof and the old exterior had faded to a mocha like brownish grey. Steve had maintained the place well, especially for one living on a school teacher’s salary.
     ‘Well, I say just Tweet a photo of ‘ol Joe about every other week and you’ve got things pretty well covered, John. That’s creativity. That’s plenty, really’. Steve laughed as he got up to visit the kitchen for another beer.
     ‘Interested, John’?
     ‘Nope. I’m good for now thanks,’ returned John. Nearing fifty, John Sedge had spent his life initially living in a large east coast city where at one point he and Milly finally accepted that the urban environment was not for them. At the time John took his lead from his friend, Steve, who had gleaned the same sentiment at a much earlier age, choosing in youth to follow his dream to be in an area where he could both teach and fish, not being obstructed daily by four lane traffic, work commutes and the typical big city annoyances. John and Milly decided to follow the same route, though John had to patiently wait for a job to surface in the field of petroleum engineering. John eventually found an opening with a smaller oil concern. Milly found work in the region as a part-time bookkeeper, working with small businesses in the Dunbar area. Over the years Milly had principally focused on time with Maud and Will, the Sedges two teenagers.
     ‘I tell you, John. Have a look at that’! Two Ravens had made their way into the Lodgepole and were now cackling between themselves as Ravens are inclined to do. Joe’s ears perked up as the birds carried on.
     ‘I love those birds’, Steve remarked, while petting Joe who had re-positioned. ‘They really should be the state bird. Ravens and Magpies are everywhere in the Rockies’.
     ‘They are quite clever, Steve. The times when I most notice Ravens are when I’m walking alone, typically in mid-November when it’s silent in the alpine snow fields; one of our ski or elk sites; all of the sudden the shadow of the overhead sable aspect drifts across the soft landscape below. Ravens seem to want to know, you see. “What is that guy in the plaid doing up here? This is not his environment; he belongs in the city, not the alpine”. The birds just know, Steve. I think they know’.
     ‘Know what, John’?
     ‘Indifference, Steve’.
     ‘Well, they are pretty clever birds, John. How does Milly feel about “indifference”’?
     ‘We’re ok. Her wits are a notch or two above my own, but I wonder some days if she too is not reaching a similar junction. Maybe there’s equanimity? I don’t know, Steve. Raise the kids, enjoy the meals and time together and, well, that’s really our calling, right? Man’s principal end and that sort of thing. She’s quite dedicated to Will and Maud. If ever a mother shepherded two youth.’ As John spoke he lifted his shoulders and lightly shook his head.
     ‘It’s surprising you’ve been together for so long. I know the kids as you indicate have had a big part in that; but you two have seemed to make things work. I think you just need to stay the course focusing on getting the kids through college. I assume all of this business on your mind relates to your relationship. Not to sound like a preacher, but you’ve said to me often that when you had the kids, they were your investment. Thus far they’ve turned out pretty well, bud. You’ve spent a lot of time together floating the rivers, skiing and taking advantage of all Colorado has to offer. Hell, those two, they’re practically like my own kids, John. God knows I’m not an expert on relationships. Just settle into some books and back off of the work schedule. Detox from the internet. Other than the creeks, to hell with the politics. Keep enjoying why you moved to Colorado, John. Don’t assume the stars control whether or not the fish bite. Go fishing, full moon or otherwise. Fine, Selene affects the feeding patterns, but what’s new in this, John? They’re still in the creek’. Steve spat and took a swig of the lite beer. The Ravens lifted, taunting one another in small circles, then glided over the mossy roof, drifting serenely in the July breeze high above the valley floor.
     ‘Sound advice as always, ‘ol Steve. Actually, I’ve been pulling a bit back at the office, simply maintaining; something similar to my exercise routine. Dick has a liberal policy when things slow in the patch. We are not drilling much and certainly not exploring lately given the commodity decline. Things are pretty quiet. Work’s going well. Gratitude is always in the background, Steve. I’m just waddling along, keeping matters on an even keel. The fact that we’re in Colorado helps; the laid back land of legalized weed. Maybe I ought to take it up, Steve? What do you think’?
     ‘Well, Coleridge and De Quincey went for bigger medicine, John’.
     ‘Can’t really say it’s for me or I’d a been there a long time ago, Harry’, John laughed while observing Joe’s greying muzzle. Steve’s impromptu crack was immediate and fluid as always, part of the reason John enjoyed Steve’s company. ‘I’m glad they legalized it, really. You know how I feel about that, all drugs. Legalize, tax, regulate’.
     ‘Well, just stick to those occasional steaks, John. That never hurts. Hell, I don’t know. You’re a bright feller. Fish more’.