From whence came this yearning of my soul?
It’s only a question I ask every day of my life, fitting, I suppose, of one with dubious genetic structure and a mangled environmental beginning marked by too many turns and twists of emotional enigmas. Of course, my portal in the scheme of time must say volumes. Am I ‘matter’ that does not matter?
Who am I?
In thinking about the question, I’m an amalgam of insecurities and dreams. I love people but cherish my private times of aloneness and my writing for self-discovery plus self-therapy. I fail. I succeed. I get angry when the computer cannot keep up with the thoughts I’m typing, some words moving to paragraphs up the page from where they should be.
Who am I?
I’m a dreamer, too lost to a past of incredible joy and love, of business victories and defeats, of consuming despair, fears, and regrets, with the painfully stark acknowledgement that more sags and wrinkles visit my body and refuse to leave. I love people but love more being at home alone with my wife…writing or watching a movie. I’m a lusty fellow when it comes to moving to a new locale – that makes me a wanderlust and my wife a haggard packer of boxes.
Who am I?
I’m a piece of ‘Everyman’, spread too thin to be a consistent devotee of something good and mostly reasonable. My writing is the one constant in my life, for it allows me many personalities to sketch and get to know. Those sketches give me glimpses of who I am.
It’s my belief I must have brothers and sisters of the bond out there – not depraved and lost souls, just junkyard philosophers.
Billy Ray Chitwood – January 26, 2017
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A New Destiny
A New Destiny
On Friday, January 20, 2017, the United States writes the first chapter in its new destiny – what should be the peaceful transition of National power, the swearing-in of a new president, Donald J. Trump.
With this inauguration, America ushers in a new destiny with a man who defies all the odds to become our Commander-in-Chief. Donald Trump at this point in our history is a ubiquitous figure throughout the world, and people of different persuasions are busy weighing in with their appraising thoughts.
Some in our Democracy believe, or, know, that, once in the White House, then President Trump will challenge the long-standing status quo and bring about changes that will damage the national and global profile of our great country, that he will bring changes to our entitlement programs that will harm the elderly, the poor, and the needy, that his total lack of political experience will bring chaos and a national deficit which will devastate our economy, that he is too brash and self-centered to have the high privilege of serving in this high office.
Some in our Democracy believe, or, know, that then President Trump is truly going to make ‘America Great Again’, altering our political landscape by eliminating stifling regulations, lowering taxes, growing jobs, getting immigration under control, building up our military, changing and/or localizing our education system, giving parents more possibilities for their children to better learn at the skill levels that fit and are important to them, helping the elderly and poor handle their health needs, introducing new health plans that are more affordable, and to halt the terrible tide of terrorism in all its forms.
You can choose your side…some of you likely know where I land between the two above suggested scenarios, and that goes along with our Democracy’s freedom of expression.
Personally, I would hope we could all embrace the time-honored tradition of a peaceful transition. After all, it is not the president we honor on inauguration so much as it is the process – a democracy changing its governance, dictated by the will of the people.
Some people still wish to talk about the ‘popular vote’ being the best way for choosing a president in lieu of the ‘electoral college’.
It is hard for me to remain silent on this issue. The states of New York, California, and Illinois will generally supply enough liberal votes to elect their preference under this system. What about the other states – the heartland, those people who work our fields for food, laborers who lay the brick and mortar for our buildings, the folks who would be forgotten in a ‘popular vote’ democracy…that would mean just a few states would decide our elections. I’m not saying the states mentioned who want the ‘popular vote system’ do not have these people. These states do have the ‘crop producers’ and ‘skilled laborers’, but, they are traditionally outnumbered by the liberal left. It just seems to me an unfair system when we make the votes of so many in other states meaningless.
Okay, I’m just one voice speaking up for a peaceful transition of power on inauguration day… Tomorrow! You have your ‘free speech’ and ‘assembly’ rights. It is my fervent hope and prayer that all is peaceful on this day of our time-honored traditional transfer of power. That is what our great Democracy and Freedom is all about, what our founding fathers intended, and what so many of our brave patriots have fought and died in wars to protect.
Billy Ray Chitwood – January 19, 2017
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Here’s the Scoop
I’m a train wreck that happened in my youth, so all of you social do-gooders are pretty much stating the obvious…OF COURSE, the early family scene plays a huge part in what a male and female grow up to be. That other stuff you psychologists and sociologists talk about a lot, the DNA that makes each person unique, I can’t say much about that.
All I know is my real Daddy took a long hike and never came back – still don’t know him, don’t know where he is, and damned well don’t want to know…very likely, in hell or the cell next to me for all I know.
My Momma, she hurt a lot, emotional-wise and money-wise. She cried uncontrollably when the state folks came and took me away because she couldn’t afford to keep me.
Momma hooked up with wily bastard Eddie Nixon about six months into my stay at the state institution. That sumbitch AD (After Daddy) was all okay for about three days after Momma came to that state-run home for kids and took me to the new house…just a hop, skip, and jump from the place whence the state people picked me up.
The fourth day was a ‘lulu’! And, every other day after that got worse – a whole lot worse.
I was five years old at the time, playing with my favorite little toy truck Momma brought me weeks back at the state-place. Making that sound kids mimic for an engine sound and pulling my truck on a string I was just inside the house at the front door.
Suddenly, the front door came inward slamming me against the wall, bringing some sharp pains to my head, legs, and shoulder. I did what kids do in moments of pain. I cried, well, maybe there were a few screams as well.
It was Eddie Sumbitch and he didn’t like my making all the noise, grabbed me roughly by the arm and threw me against the facing wall. Now, I was really screaming, terrified this mean sumbitch was going to kill me. The words he used cursing me came between full-swinging slaps on face, head, and anywhere else they just happened to land.
Momma was out back taking clothes off the line, heard my loud screams and crying, came running in yelling my name. When she saw the wacko sumbitch whacking me, Momma started crying, screaming, and trying to pull him away from me.
Sumbitch slammed me to the floor and goes after Momma. For me, it was a scene of horror, and I curled into a fetus position against the wall, covered my ears with my small hands, still screaming with my tears falling in heavy drops onto the floor.
Without going into all the loud cursing, name-calling, and the bad beating Momma took, I stopped breathing or something. The next thing I knew Momma was holding me as I looked up at her split lips, dark swollen eyes, and purple cheeks. When she saw me starting to cry again, Momma swayed me back and forth in her arms and promised me everything was going to be all right.
But everything didn’t get all right.
The beatings of Momma and of me continued, and we stayed in a vacuum of fear. Momma was afraid to go to the police because sumbitch might kill us.
I made it into my teens, even made high school for a year before dropping out. My bullying, my stealing, my fighting, and my bad treatment of girls started sometime in my early teens, and through all these terrible events I carried my hatred of Eddie…plus a great amount of fear. It’s hard to believe, I suppose, that a convict like me would have fear of someone. The memory, the brain, and the emotions can collide in mysterious ways.
My mother died from one of Eddie’s beatings, and he was not held accountable by the court.
That brings me to the reason for this brief life sketch and my incarceration.
One night, the brain, the memories, and the fear all joined together with several rounds of straight bourbon to bring me to one clear purpose.
That night I resolved to kill Eddie Nixon.
It took me two days to find him in another state, remarried and doing what he did best…abusing the woman and her kids. When I knocked on the door, the woman who answered was bruised like Momma, and her two kids were cowered in the corner of the living room.
I waited in my car until Eddie’s car pulled to the curb in front of his house. He opened the car door, saw me, started to make his move when I hit him on the head with a heavy wrench. I dragged him to my car, stuffed him in the trunk, tied him up, and drove to a predetermined spot in the country.
There, I tortured him in ways I won’t mention until he was crying for mercy. That’s when I put my hands around his throat and choked him. It took him three minutes of struggling before he died.
Okay, the truth! I did it, and I’m glad I did it – for Momma and for me!
This is where I deserve to be, here in this tiny barred cell...not only because of sumbitch but all the other bad things I did.
I tortured and murdered a man, and forgive me, world, but I can live perhaps too easily with that fact.
Guess I cannot do much serious thinking about how my life might have gone with different genes and had my environment been different…
You ‘social folks’ can ponder on that.
Flash Fiction by: Billy Ray Chitwood
January 16, 2017
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We practiced all summer, between beach time and part-time work. We worked hard to become Western Rose High School’s best tandem quarterback and wide receiver in the football history of our school and our state of South Carolina.
We? Bobby Borden is the wide receiver of whom I write. The quarterback is Danny Miles. That would be me.
Coach Collins ended our Spring Practice session with this locker room announcement: “I’m already second-guessing myself in telling you guys this, but here goes. The team assembled in this locker room may very well be the best group of athletes we Coaches have had for years. I’m talking about all positions. I’m talking about depth, I’m talking about speed, about execution of plays on offense and defense.”
The coach paused, did that little lip press and nod thing he does when he’s about to say something big. “What I’m saying to you group of young men is that you are potentially as good as any South Carolina State Championship team this state ever crowned…" He paused again.
“Now, it’s good if this news pumps you up, but do not, repeat, do not, get your thinking going off in the wrong direction. The teams you will be playing this Fall and Winter will likely be hearing something similar from their coaches. What I’m saying is real, and I mean every word. You can be South Carolina State Champs this year. Keep believing these words! Make them your mantra! BUT, do not ease up on the practice field. Execute your plays, play your positions like you’re in that State Championship game.
“Remember this point: regardless what you hear and read in the various media, do not go into any game thinking the other team is a ‘lay down’. Each team you play this year will be reading of your newspaper heroics and will be posting their bulletin board hypes, having their pep rallies, practicing hard just to humiliate you. Stay within yourselves, know you’re good, but go into every game knowing that the other team has watched the video tapes, know as well as they can your strengths and weaknesses and are waiting to pounce on any mistake or turnover you make.
“We Coaches will do all we can to have you prepared for battle, but you are the guys that have to play the game…and, don’t worry, we’ll keep reminding you of this little locker room chat.
“Remember, football is just a game but it can teach you some important life lessons and lead to bright futures - if not in football, in the business world.
“The last thing I’ll mention is also very important. Each time you take the field against that other team, remember to have fun! Practice will be at times very tiring because the Coaches want to hone your skills, have those skills ingrained so they will be second nature, and you will be glad when bedtime comes. Whether a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, the rewards are waiting for you when you finish your academics here at Western Rose, scholarships for some, jobs for others, and I guarantee you that these years of playing a rough sport and learning in those classrooms will have you ready for the even tougher competition in the adult world…”
Bobby Borden gathers in his large soft hands my long high-floating spiral on Breton High’s 17-yard line. Bobby works hard to make it all the way to the end zone but the Breton safety has the right angle and tackles my best receiver on the 12-yard line…
Coach Collins predicts correctly about our team. We make it all the way to the South Carolina State Football Championship Game in Clemson, South Carolina.
Coach is right about something else. We build a 24-3 lead at halftime and come out too full of ourselves in the second half. The Breton Warriors make some good adjustments, stop us cold in the third quarter and score three touchdowns - on our two fumbles near our goal line and a punt return.
The coach at the end of the third quarter huddles the players on the sidelines and gives us a reality check. “You’re playing too tight guys and rushing your assignments. We’re here in this exalted stadium with a huge crowd mostly on our side, and they are dying a little bit each time we make a mistake. Look, this is your game to win or lose. You work hard to get here. You believe in yourselves. You know you’re as good or better than the Breton Beavers. The Western Rose Warriors need to take a few deep breaths and rev up for a big finish. Danny, make your reads, audible when you see a one-on-one possibility for Bobby. The Breton safety doesn’t look full-speed to me. Maybe you work on him. Be ready to scramble, Danny, because they are going to keep blitzing you…try a screen pass or two to get them away from the blitz. You linemen are doing a great job. Keep it up. And, Bubba Hopkins, hit them hard up the middle and over tackle…”
The horn sounds for the third quarter.
Coach Collins finishes with this: “All the Coaches are proud of you. You’ve got fifteen minutes to build some great memories… Love you guys!”
We all pile on hands, yell loudly, and take the field.
Well, the fourth quarter goes well for us except for some stupid penalties that stop our drives. Our defense is terrific, holding the Beavers to sixteen total yards. So, now, we’re on the Beavers 12-yard line with nine minutes to play in the game, huddling, and I’m calling a fake hand-off and throwing to Bobby at the post. Bobby fakes the defensive double coverage players out of their jocks and makes our tandem a thing of beauty… The huge, awesome crowd and our sideline goes wild. My heart does little flip-flops!
Touchdown! Extra Point! Score: 31-24…
The Beavers take the kickoff on their own 6-yard line, and our special team guys get the runner on the 13-yard line. The Warriors are feeling good. We have the beavers on their own 13-yard line. They try a couple of running plays but our linebackers fill the gaps.
The Beavers are now facing third down and six yards to go for a first down. The Beaver quarterback calls a screen, and we blitz. The speedy and small motion guy jukes our defensive end, catches a high pass, and outruns our safety and two other defensive backs for a touchdown. Great play! And I hate it!
With the football changing hands two times, we now have one minute and three seconds to play in the game. We miss an opportunity to take the lead. We score on a pass play, but the touchdown is nullified because of a holding penalty. After two more dumb penalties, we punt to the Beavers.
The Beavers have the ball. After our defense holds, it’s fourth down on the Beavers 40-yard line. Their Coach calls the team’s final time-out to go over the options. There are only twenty-one seconds left on the game clock when the players go back on the field.
The quarterback almost loses the ball from the errant center, but recovers and lofts a long 35-yard pass to his wide receiver who catches the ball.
On our sideline, there are lots of groans and many heads are hanging low.
Our safety hits the wide receiver with a jarring tackle on our 10-yard line and the football goes straight up into the air about fifteen feet. Our safety twirls, looks up, and the ball falls into his arms. He then races ninety exciting yards for a touchdown, dodging, stiff-arming, turning, twisting.
Happy moments for Western Rose Warriors.
That’s the way the score stays as the ensuing kickoff return was the last play of the game. The runner is tackled on the Beavers’ eleven-yard line as the clock runs out.
The noise is deafening! People are rushing onto the field. Players are embracing, some crying tears of joy, some tears of defeat.
The western Rose Warriors are the South Carolina State Football Champions!
Bobby Borden and Danny Miles got their athletic scholarships and went on to play as a star tandem passer/receiver at Clemson University where they had three winning seasons and bowl appearances. AND, they could have played pro ball but decided a business partnership and marriage was more important to them.
They married their high school sweethearts, had wonderful families, and built a major sports products business. They stayed friends throughout their lives and occasionally watched a replay of their victory over the Breton Beavers.
They never forgot Coach Collins and his assistant coaches. They never forgot the glory of winning the South Carolina State Football Championship and their great games at Clemson. The bruises and jarring tackles of past football glory became arthritis and hip replacements eventually. Their football experiences made them competitive in business and they achieved most of their goals.
Glory came with business more often than football victories, and the elation always came with each goal achievement, much like that championship game at Frank Howard Field Memorial Stadium - 'Death Valley', Clemson, South Carolina, January, 2017.
Glory with all its euphoria fades but can temper the rest of our lives. The football experience often has for some of us a subtle current that never leaves our minds and bodies. When the right Coaches meet the right players, there can be magic in the transference.
Past glories and the Sports' lessons learned have a place always in the hearts and memories of those who experience them. Those lessons can weave themselves into positive outcomes for life’s problems.
When faith, humility, love, and family are added the human spirit thrives.
Flash Fiction by: Billy Ray Chitwood - January, 2017
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♥CONGRATULATIONS TO CLEMSON UNIVERSITY NATIONAL FOOTBALL CHAMPS - 2017!♥
After toasting Marco, the bartender, with a good afternoon, the two friends took their beers to their favorite booth in the Men’s Grill. The men were avid golf members of the Peninsula Country Club, harbor-side on Pelican Landing, and this was their favorite beer stop during the week, pre-golf, post-golf, or just in the mood. The club was lovely with its wide variety of palms, indigenous oaks, sugar maples well over one hundred years old, and beautifully maintained plants and fairways.
Their booth looked out on a lovely sunny day, blue sky, and the long finishing 18th hole. The friends commented on the golfers’ incoming shots to the lush guitar-shaped green and chuckled when an errant pitching wedge sent the ball into the blue-green waters where the stately boats in their slips softly swayed in the breeze.
Both Bradley Holden and Kurt Gentry were six feet tall, forty years old, and handsome. Bradley was cleanly shaven and had black wavy hair, Kurt’s black beard and hair were curly, cultured neatness. Brad was holding a gray dimpled pill between his thumb and forefinger with a wide smile and playful goggle eyes.
Kurt took a sip of beer and took the bait. “Okay, what’s so amazing about that pill you’re romancing between your fingers?”
“Thought you’d never ask! It’s beyond amazing, Kurt! It’s beyond revolutionary! This is the greatest little capsule ever invented by man. You cannot breathe a word of this to anyone, not even Nancy or your parents. We’ve been best pals since grade school, and I want to share this with you. No one else knows about this except the inventing genius who must remain anonymous. You have to promise me you will not speak of it, okay?”
“Sure, I promise. I’ve never seen you so excited about any of your pet projects.”
“Not pet projects, Kurt. That sounds so child-like, so insulting to this tiny but magnificent invention. You’ve done very well with the private information I’ve given you in the past. Sure, a few ideas didn’t pan out, but I gave you the caveats at the time, right?”
“You did. That’s why I promise because you are an incredible mover and shaker. Now, what is this capsule - sorry I insulted it by saying pill - what is this capsule going to do for me and the world?” Kurt smiled and sipped his beer.
“Not yet the world, good friend, just you…and stop with the silly smile. This is more important than you realize. Now, look carefully at me. Really look and analyze. Don’t glance. What can you see?”
After a long interval, Kurt spoke. “I can see the same incredibly handsome pal with curly black hair and blue eyes who sat with me last week at this same table.”
“Come on, Kurt! I’m asking you to be serious here…thanks for the handsome part!” he smiled.
“I am being serious. Except for your clothing, I notice the same you.”
Bradley sighed. “Okay, remember the boat and fishing accident when the big Bluefin knocked me down and caused a gash in my left forehead? Remember the scar? Remember the big brown wart on my right cheek below the ear? Do you see a scar on my forehead? Do you see the wart?”
Kurt looked befuddled. “In fact, I don’t…sorry, I’m so used to seeing you I didn’t think about the scar and wart. You telling me the pill took the scar and wart away?”
“That’s what I’m telling you…but even more. Don’t you think I look younger?”
Kurt squinted. “Damn! I thought you got a short haircut, but your face does look smoother and tighter. Same pill did that?”
“That’s right, and there’s even more.” He smiled at his friend, sipped slowly his own beer, enjoying the waiting game he was playing.
“Okay, smart guy, what’s ‘even more’?”
“Even more is, taken at the frequency directed, I will never get older than I am right now at this moment.”
“Brad, you’ve got to be kidding! This is science fiction, all impossible stuff you’re saying.”
“Just listen for a minute or so, okay? Some Scientists and some in the Tech world have been working in a field called Micro-Robotics and Nano-robots. I can’t tell you much about it, but, supposedly, some years from now those little nano-rascals will have different duties, will be injected into our veins to remove old cells, create new cells, fix medical problems like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and so forth… Guess that signals some sense of immortality. It’s all amazing.
“Now, my guy is ahead of the curve. His pill has some cell cleanup and anti-aging capabilities. He’s a Cal Tech graduate and the sharpest man I know… Well, you’re pretty sharp, too,” he smiled and nodded toward his longtime pal, “and, handsome!”
“Hold up, Brad, this cannot be legal what you’re doing. How long have you been taking these pills? Are there any side effects? Are you just going on blind trust? Incidentally, there was nothing not charming about your scar and wart. So, the big question is WHY would you do this?”
“Aside from you, Kurt, this gentleman is my best friend… He did not want me to be his guinea pig. I sort of stole some of his pills…”
“Sort of ‘stole’?”
“He needed validation for his studies. All animal and other tests had been done but the human element… I supplied that for him.”
“And he let you? Brad, this is nuts!”
“He didn’t know about it and was mad as hell when I told him. You know me, I’m a risk taker.”
“Yes, but with something weird like this? Is he not worried about your health? Did he not suggest you see a doctor?”
“No, for several good reasons. He just told me to stop taking them.”
“And, did you?”
“I’ve been taking the pills several weeks now. They are once a week pills. He seems to think I’m fine and is happy as the chirping lark.” Brad raised his arm to the waiter for two more beers.
“But, did you stop taking the pill?”
“I took one this morning. Don’t worry, I won’t take anymore.”
Kurt shook his head and kept looking at his friend as though seeing him for the first time. The two men were quiet until the drinks arrived. A strange osmosis was taking place, and Kurt could not quite understand it. “Well, I love you, big guy, and I hope you’re not screwing around with fate.” He raised his glass for a toast.
They chatted, relived some old memories, and enjoyed their afternoon.
Recalling a funny college incident triggered another toast. The two friends lifted their cocktail glasses for the traditional touch.
Suddenly, Brad jerked his head and got a glazed look in his eyes.
Kurt noticed a tightness come to Brad’s face and scalp. Brad’s hair seemed to be shaking and shimmering in the afternoon light.
“My God! Brad, are you okay? Your face…it’s…”
“I don’t know, Kurt, I’m feeling funny! I need to leave…sorry…guess I’m…”
With that, Brad stood and started toward the exit.
Kurt stood, followed, and, after the second step Brad wavered and crumpled into Kurt’s arms. Brad’s body became limp in his arms. Then, Kurt’s eyes widened with horror as the mass he held in his arms began to shrivel and become lighter until he was holding loose clothes and a further diminishing Bradley Holden. Kurt opened his mouth to scream but no sound came. He stood, tears streaming down his face and onto the clothes of his best friend. His body trembled and his mind considered the possibility he was having a nightmare.
The faces of the lone bartender, waiter, and a few scattered members all blanched with disbelief and froze in fear.
A cloud settled under the mid-afternoon sun, presenting through the big window a bleak tableau of people in shock and gray stillness.
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood
Written originally by Billy Ray in July, 2014, with some minor changes here.
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‘The Way We Were’ – Then and/or Now
JANUARY 2, 2017 / BRCHITWOOD
We awake in the cave, our minds blurred by realities of living.
Moira goes deeper into the cave to bathe.
Somehow, we have ended up here above the land we now see through the opening of the only home Moira and I have ever known. We eat certain vegetation, sweetly sour berries, and meat from the kills of our crude weapons. Over time we have developed a language that allows us to communicate with each other.
Who are we? What are we? What is our purpose? Are we creations of some bewildering fate that allows us the awareness of thought? We can think and therefore we exist. There must be more than the hunt, the kill, the cave in which we live.
What of this thing I hold in my hand, heavy and gouged by the passing of time? How is it I know to call it a rock? I throw the rock into the wall of the cave and it bounces here and there, finally landing not far from the great opening.
Moira’s question breaks into my thoughts.
“Why do you throw the rock, Meito?”
Without looking at Moira, I fumble with the dirt and pebbles on the ground where I kneel, I respond. “I throw the rock because of my confusion and our way of living…the rock has thickness, weight, and no feelings. Why can’t we be like the rock?”
Moira stands a few feet away from me. She has just come from the cleansing water pit deep in the cave, her long black hair wet and stringy. Her pretty face and deep brown eyes show innocence and purity. The meager animal skin she wears clings to her body and does little to hide the sensual fullness of her youth.
“Because the rock has little function,” Moira answers. “Because the rock has no feeling, cannot hunt, kill, and show love. Meito, we have this same conversation so often. This is where we are and must accept our destiny. We have made our lives better than when we met some years ago, hopeless and lost in this wild mountainside. We will go on and trust in our love. I believe there is some spirit power that will guide us to where it is we are going.”
As I stand, a smile appears on Moira’s face and her eyes sparkle with an unfathomable certainty. She sees my heavy brown beard part and show its own smile. I go to her, and we embrace.
“You always lift me out of my depression. We will let life happen as it is destined to happen. The people we see hiding behind trees, fleeing from us – as we flee from them – maybe, one day, we can unite and get out of the caves… You are beautiful, sweet Moira, and your love is enough for me.”
We soon leave the cave for our hunt.
It is a beautiful day on the mountain.
Flash Fiction by:
Billy Ray Chitwood – January 1, 2017
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