Sunday, August 27, 2006

Indians and Funerals

My uncle Johnny made his way into the boat with the stranger. My older brother Jerry squinted into the sun and waved goodbye. With his other hand he steadied himself by leaning into my shoulder. He was bracing himself against the rocking created by the waves of the departing boat occupied by the overweight sweating stranger and our skinny uncle Johnny.

The fishing boat grew smaller and smaller as we stood and stared into the sun. I shooed a team of three flies away from my eyes and sat down on one of the boat’s vinyl padded seats. The Texas sun bore in on my forehead and its glint off of the water caused me to blink my eyes like a small boy awakening from sleep. I was only 10 years old, but the consequences of running out of gas in the middle of a giant lake were not lost on me. Jerry acted fully confident about our predicament. I supposed it was the full experience of his 13 years that brought him such confidence.

My brother hauled the ski rope up out of the water and predicted our uncle would be back with the gas shortly. I looked out at the tree lined shore at least a half mile away and imagined there were Indians hiding behind the trees. Just like in the western movies I imagined they were intent on scalping us both unless my uncle Johnny returned just in the nick of time. I wondered if they would begin to beat their war drums like in the movies, and then paddle out to us in a canoe yelping unintelligible Indian chants.

That would really upset my mom. I thought about a funeral for a little 10 year old boy scalped by Indians on the lake, while his uncle went for gas to power the ski boat. The fact that it was 1961 was a small flaw in my western movie fantasy. Like a slow thinking movie director forgetting to use time period objects in a movie I had imagined my way into an impossibility.

“I sure hope they come back soon,” I muttered across the top of my imaginary little boy casket. Jerry looked at me with that look of his that meant he was thinking about what I said but had no intention of saying something as pitifully soothing as “Don’t worry they will.” What in fact came out of his mouth was more of that philosophical stuff he was always attributing to our dad. A lot of times I wasn’t sure if Jerry got it all correct since I was more involved in imagining funerals and hitting imaginary home runs at Yankee Stadium than in my dad’s philosophies.

“Dad says the idea of hoping for things is bullshit.” I looked back at him thinking to say something smartass just because I was pretty sure dad didn’t say it that way. Mom didn’t allow that kind of talk in front of us. I didn’t say anything though. I knew he didn’t like being interrupted when he was repeating dad philosophy. He even tried to bow his head down like dad did when he was looking at us from his full standing height. “He told me hope is an unconscious compromise with expected failure.” I had no idea what he was talking about really, but of course he carried on like a sage of the east. Maybe it was because he just got a tight burr haircut the day before and fancied himself a Buddhist wise man or something. “He says having hope is just another way of saying we aren’t really sure about something. Sort of like just saying maybe something will work out alright, but we aint so sure.”

“Well, what’s wrong with wanting something good to happen,” I asked?

“There ain’t nothing wrong with it you retard, it’s just that dad is saying something else is better.” I didn’t imagine a real Buddhist preacher would call me a retard so he was already losing a little ground with me. I looked out across the water and squinted way into the distance. I didn’t care what Mr. Budhha had to say, I was hoping they came back soon.

“Dad says we should learn to expect, not hope. He means that expecting something is going to cause it to happen and just hoping for it aint as good really. That’s what he means when he says that hope is an unconscious compromise with expected failure, except I told you a simpler way to understand it cause you’re a little retard.”

I looked at him and he smiled. He liked being a Buddha and all but he never got tired of being my big brother either. I figured his smile meant he was just kiddin about the retard thing. “What do you think about that hope business then, he asked?”

“I hope you drown before uncle Johnny gets back, I said.”

“Well, dad says that aint good enough, you gotta expect for me to drown if you want it to happen, otherwise you’re just whistling Dixie up Ol' River Hope.”

I told him to eat me.


Rick said...

All sorts of things go through a young mind stuck in the middle of a big lake. Indians are easily a possibility. I used to fear the Loch Ness Monster in those precious few moments between the time I fell off my skis and the time somebody in the boat finally noticed.

patti_cake said...

Expect.. Hope... it's alot the same to me. Your brother sounds alot like my brother. What is about older brothers that they love to taunt younger siblings?

Jenn said...

I love the imagination. I'm going to throw something else in the mix...belief. That's what I do. When I want something to turn out a certain way - I believe it will.

I think it works. :-)

Seven said...

Yes Jenn,
Exactly what I am saying, though taking a unique twist by identifying the concept of hope as being the quicksand for potential failure. Sometimes we celebrate the concept of hope not completely understanding that belief is far more powerful. Your idea of belief is exactly where I was going. Very good. Thanks for reading so closely.

Reach said...

Outstanding Seven,
and like the buoyant boat you were in, there must be balance in the foundation of your belief/expect/hope, before you can move on the path you wish to venture. I think that our universe, whether in the imagination, or before us, lies within this balance of the spirit and the mind.


Seven said...

Thanks for reading it through. I can always count on you.

Angie said...

Hope to me indicates that I play no role in the outcome. Belief, however, indicates that I do. Great story. Are there more stories like this in your book?

Seven said...

It is the concept of the book, yes. The idea is a compilation of short stories that typically involve a complex idea viewed through the lens of a child. This in my thinking is combining innocence with the edges of the nearly known.... AKA the edges of discovery. That's something I believe we are all involved in throughout our lives.
In this case I wanted to illustrate the complicated idea that hope, something we typically celebrate, might actually be a conceptual feeling or thinking that is as negative as it is positive. A larger power available to us all is the 'power of belief' as Jenn stated or 'expectation of the things we wish and dream', not the less positive hoping.
The story of course is fiction. The father is the idealized light that illuminates a smaller mind, as the Universe does for us each. It is fiction out of necesssity in order to express my point.
I ended the story that way (which may offend some, for example beg doesn't like the ending)to illustrate that often a truth handed to us is ahead of its time, and we only come to know what had always been in front of us until many years later.
Thank you for asking. Much love.
And I see from your comment that you fully understand. That makes me feel successful. Now...if I could just learn to I mean type!

Enemy of the Republic said...

Sorry, I haven't posted--busy at work, but planning a new blog. Have you seen Jim Jarmush's (sp) movie called "Dead Man"? I think that's the name. It stars Johnny Depp; it's an independent film and Neil Young does the soundtrack. You would really like it.

Seven said...

I haven't seen it, but I will certainly track it down. Do you mean a completely new blog?

Angie said...

Normally I agree with BEG, but this time I have to agree with you...I like the way the story ends. Besides making your point, I think it's also realistic in how siblings deal with each other. Go with your instinct, Grasshopper.

Enemy of the Republic said...

No, blog entry. At first I didn't understand your question. I got enough blogs and real job to go with it!

Lynilu said...

OK, I couldn't get to the hidden nuances because Jerry sounds just like my older brother who caused me grief for many years! He always seems surprised when I mention it these days, probably because his aging mind forgets so many things. Good story, seven.