Friday, July 9, 2010

Salt Mind

When I dream, I usually know I'm dreamin'. However, that doesn't mean my dreams are any less...real.

Suddenly, I felt weary. Tired. I just wanted to sleep...sweet, blissfull, sleeep.

"Tell me about this war of yours and how you have survived for so long," the old man said, "and I'll give you this salt," he concluded, rotating the salt shaker through his fingers.

Normally, I would oblige, but somethin' deep intuition or hunch, told me not to play this guy's game. I didn't know why, but I did know I oughtta listen to my hunches. Experience is a great teacher, or it can be.

"Why are you so concerned about it?" I asked, taking a drag from my smoke and blowin' it in the old man's face.

I couldn't say precisely why, but I didn't like this old man. Somethin' about him riled me up, especially now that I was focused on him.
He also looked...famliar. Hell, everyone in the bar looked familiar, now that I thought about it. Even Annie.

" don't know who you're messin' with," the old man said, gettin' off the stool and squarin' off agin me. He was wearing two six shooters of his own and I had no doubt he knew how to use them.

I got off my stool and got ready to slap leather.

"Look, I only wanna hear your story. What's the harm in that? I don't wanna kill you," he said, his eyes flashin' and betrayin' his real intentions.

"Loose lips sink ships," I replied, grinning.

"Very funny," the old man said, smiling. "But I don't see no ships. No back-up. No, you're all alone ain'tcha?"

In my periphery vision I could see and hear the young burly guys gathering around me. My eyes stayed glued to the old man, but I was suddenly aware there were more young burly guys than I had seen earlier.

Call me a cynic, but I had the feelin' they weren't just gatherin' around to watch the drama between me and the old man. No, they were gonna help him!
Swell, I thought. Well, the bar is called Pain, I mused wryly.

"why can't we be friends?" The old man asked, tryin' his best to look like a friendly old man, his hands out in a gesture of supplication. "There's no need for us to fight. Here, take the salt," he said, sliding the shaker down the bar to me.

"I was just bustin' yer balls is all," he said, grinnin'.

I could hear the burly young guys stirring but one look from the old man amd they reluctantly went back to their pool game while the rest took their seats.

The old man sat down and raised his drink to me.

I relaxed a bit and salted my margarita, or what the bar tender called a miseryta. Funny guy, I thought, taking a drink...which I immediately spit out!

"It's even more bitter!" I exclaimed feelin' woozy. "That's...that's not salt," I said, tryin' to keep my balance.

There was somethin' in that fake salt, I thought. Poison. I mentally slapped myself for bein' such an idiot.

I looked at the old man who smiled that crooked smile. Then it dawned on me: I KNEW this old man.

He, and now he's tryin' to be me again.
I aimed to be my self the best I Am able. That left no room for the old man. Besides, he was nothin' but trouble. I unsteadily faced him down again, and again the young burly guys gathered around me.

"How many times do I gotta put you down"? I asked with a bravado I didn't feel.

The juke box started playin' a well known song:

Hey now, the well run dry
Pages of your book on fire
Read the writing
On the wall

Strange, I thought. It was like a soundtrack to a movie, except I was starring in this flick, but it wasn't acting, it was real.
On the wall behind the old man I saw some writing and I tried to focus to see what it said: You need salt.

Huh? Who wrote that? I wondered. It just appeared. What a strange message. I already knew I needed salt.

Hoe down, it's a show-down
Ev'rywhere you look, we're fighting
Hear the call

"You can't kill who ya are, sonny," the old man said.

"No...I ain't you anymore," I said. "You have no place in my life!" I exclaimed.

"Oh...riiight. You're a 'new man' now. You got the Christ. HE is your hero now...your God," he said with disgust.

And you know it's gettin' stronger
I can't last very much longer
Turn to stone

Damn it! I'm in no condition to fight, I thought.

"Woulda been easier for ya if'n you hadn't spit out the poison. Yer just prolonging this unnecessary fight you know. Now yer just gonna suffer needlessly," the old man said, but he didn't look broken up over it.

"Yeah, well you know me...I don't do easy none to well," I replied, smiling.

"And how's that workin' for ya boy? How are ya feelin', huh? Unbearable pain? No energy? No end in sight? Sick and f"*ckin' tired of fightin'? You yearn for peace, right? And you think I'M the bad guy? Haven't you more than paid your dues? Years and years of nothin' but hurt, and for what? To be abandoned? Tortured?" The old man snorted.

Well there's a change in the wind
You know the signs don't lie
Such a strange feelin'
And I don't know why it's takin'
Such a long time

Backyard people
And they work all day
Tired of the speeches and the way
That the reasons keep changin'
Just to make the words rhyme

"I can bring you fun. PASSION!" He exclaimed.
"I can make you feel alive again! You deserve that and more! You deserve to enjoy yourself...cut loose and replace all that pain with ecstacy! Pleasure! I can give you all that!"

And you know it's gettin' stronger
Can't make 'em run much longer
Turn to stone

I flashed back to the last phone call I had with my Grandpa, 11 years ago.

"I gotta have my leg cut off, Ben. They tell me it has to go or I'll die," Grandpa said, his voice so frail and weak.

It hurt like hell to hear him like that.

"I'm tired, Ben. I'm ready to go be with Jessie again," he said, his voice breakin'.

"Grandpa, I..." My voice breakin' too.

Grief and a sense of loss was breakin' my heart, so much I was strugglin' to breath as white hot tears streamed down my cheeks.

"Ben...I've been on this earth 93 years. It's time, Ben. My time. I'll...We, will be waitin' for you Ben. Remember this, the Good Lord ain't done with you yet. He has plans for you Ben." Grandpa said.

"Grandpa...I love you," was all I could get out.

"I love you too, Ben. You're a man now and I'm damn proud of you!" Grandpa said, his voice sounding strong again.
"Always do the right thing."

"I will, Grandpa." I replied.

"Ben, don't forget the Man upstars," Grandpa said, his voice steeped in wisdom.

"I won't, Grandpa," I said.

"I gotta go, Ben. I won't say goodbye, I'll just say so long," he said, his voice fading. Grandpa always said 'so long' instead of goodbye.

"So long, Grandpa," I said, my eyes welling with tears.

I knew this would be the last time I would talk to Grandpa while he was on earth.

They say "blood is thicker than water." I say bullsh*t! Grandpa and my Nana adopted my mother when she was three. Her mother was dyin' and her father was reportedly of Mexican heritage and had fought in World War Two for the United States. He had left soon after my mother was born, never to be heard from again.
My mother's mom had asked Nana to take care of her and my Nana, and Grandpa raised her as their own.

I couldn't be closer to Nana and Grandpa if they were blood related.
So I learned at a young age that blood didn't mean sh*t. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the love of my grandparents SURPASSED blood! I KNEW that first hand.

Grandpa was the father I never had. He was a man's man. Much like a cross between John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, with a heavy dash of Lionel Barrymore. And yet...unique in his own way.
I can still hear his words of wisdom and his deep, genuine and earthy laugh which I heard often, for Grandpa had a great sense of humor.

I fondly recall my Nana's motherly wisdom, and her food...oh man! You ain't lived until you ate food made with the love that wonderfull lady put into it!
She had enough love for the entire family. Nana was truly a saint.

Grandpa and Nana were master storytellers. I was always so deeply engrossed when they told their stories. Stories that sprang to life when they told 'em! Stories I never tired of hearin'!
I can't think of any tv show or movie or any recreational activity I would rather experience than the stories my grandparents told.
Nothin'....nothin' compared to the sheer joy that accompanied their stories.

After the doctors cut off Grandpa's leg, he went HOme. I wasn't surprised when I got the call.
Oh, I was in immense grief and I mourned. I cried uncontrollably in Patti's arms. But I knew...I KNEW Grandpa was finally HOme, with Nana...with our Father. And he was happy.
My tears were mournfully joyous.

As I faced off against the old man I heard Grandpa say: "Do the right thing, Ben."

"I ain't alone you know! I got me some help this time," the old man said, fear tinging his voice.

Why's he so afraid? I wondered, tryin' to shake the effects of the poison.

"You see all them young strappin' men? I teamed up with them to put a stop to yer madness. Yeah. Yer "demons," yer 'mind parasites' as you call them now," he said, smiling cruelly.
"So give it up already and I swear we won't torture you...much."

"I'm all shill shocked over here," I replied, with more confidence than I had.
"So bring it on. Bring your shock n' audacity. I really don't care, 'cause I'll never, ever give up!" I shouted.

"No! Don't hurt him!" Annie cried as the burly young mind parasites moved in.

All hell broke loose. And the juke box increased in volume:

She cried to the southern wind
About a love that was sure to end
Every dream in her heart was gone
Headin' for a Showdown

I turned around and tackled Annie so she would be out of the line of fire.

"You smell nice," I said, smiling. "Stay under that table, okay?"

Bad dreamer, what's your name
Looks like we're ridin' on the same train
Looks as through there'll be more pain
There's gonna be a Showdown

A mind parasite grabbed me by my collar and picked me up with one arm, slammin' it's ham fist into my gut.
I tried to say 'ow' but I couldn't speak at that moment.

I reckon the battlefield mirth will hafta wait, I thought, kickin' the bohemoth in his nether region.

And it's rainin' all over the world
It's raining all over the world
Tonight, the longest night

The parasite dropped me as it dropped to it's knees. I heard, and felt the whoosh! of bullets barely missin' my head.
I drew my weapons and concentrated on the mind parasites first since they were closer.

I took out three of them before they were on me, knockin' my guns outta my hands. The remaining parasites, three of them, proceeded to unleash blow after blow on my face and it was startin' to look purty grim for yours truly.
The beating went on for what seemed like hours, although it couldn't have been more than a few minutes.
I tried to strike back but my blows were too weak. between the poison and the beatdown it looked very bleak.
The old man and the mind parasites cackled with glee.

"Assholes," I muttered.

She came to me like a friend
She blew in on a southern wind
Now my heart is turned to stone again
There's gonna be a Showdown

Save me, oh save me
It's unreal, the suffering
There's gonna be a Showdown

And it's rainin' all over the world
It's raining all over the world
Tonight, the longest night

I heard gun shots and suddenly I fell to the floor like a sack of flour.

"Leave! Him! Alone!" Annie shouted, emptying the gun she picked up on the mind parasites.

She's beautiful! I thought, lookin' up at her still shooting the gun. "Click. Click. Click."

"Annie," I said weakly.

She dropped the gun and knelt down beside me, cradling my head in her ample bosom.

"Are you okay?" She asked, lightly touching my face.

Now I recognized Annie. She is my wife, I thought. Her middle name is Ann. Ann, Annie. God, she is beautiful!

"I am now," I said, smiling. "Thanks hon."

"Here, I need to stop the bleeding," she said, ripping a piece of her dress hem off to wipe the blood off my face.

My eyes were still glued on her dress hem when she bent down to kiss me.

One shot rang out and a look of shock appeared on Annie's face. She tried to talk but nothing came out. Then she fell in my arms as I scrambled to get to my feet. I made it to my knees before I caught her.

"No! Annie!" I shouted, brushing the hair from her eyes.

Blood and tears burned my eyes as I quickly surveyed the damage. There was a bullet hole near the center of her chest and blood was bubbling out.
I immediately put my hands over the wound to staunch the bleeding.

"Now you'll die," the old man said, cackling.

I didn't turn to look. I kept working on Annie. I felt her hand poking me weakly. She mouthed the word: 'gun', and I looked down. She had managed to grab my other gun off the deck.

I slowly reached for it with one blood soaked hand.

So much blood! I thought, tryin' not to panic.

"Turn around and look at me, the old man said. "I'm gonna enjoy makin' you suffer! Ha ha ha ha!"

Please, I prayed. Give me speed.

I whirled as fast as I could, dropping to the deck on my back, my six gun blazing away at the old man.

I saw his gun blaze a look of surprise on his face a bullet hit my left shoulder, ripping through the flesh and hitting bone. I ignored the searing pain and kept on shooting until I emptied my gun.

The old man fell backwards and dropped his gun before crashing to the deck.
I scrambled to grab his gun and aimed it at his head.

"Damn you!" He spit. "Go ahead, finish me off. But I'll be back, as many times as it takes. Then I'll be the one killin' you. I'll be the head honcho, numero un...!"

Bang! Bang! Bang!

"Shut up," I said, quickly turning back to Annie.

My shoulder burned in protest but I wouldn't let that stop me.

"You're hurt," Annie said as I worked to stop her bleeding.

"It's nothin'," I said, fightin' through the pain.

Please! Please don't let her die God! I prayed.
So much blood...

Annie's breathing became labored, and she couldn't seem to catch her breath or get enough air.
Her lung! I thought. She has a sucking chest wound.

I fumbled for my cigarettes.

"Those things will kill you, y'know?" Patti managed to say before coughing, her gasps growing louder.

Fear etched her face as she rwalized she could no longer breath. Then a peace seemed to enter her eyes as she gazed into mine.
She even...smiled. And she melted my heart...again.

I quickly got the cellophne wrapper off my pack of smokes and placed it firmly over her chest wound. Nothin' seemed to happen.

"C'mon! Breath! Breath, Annie!" I shouted in a loud whisper.

Annie took in a loud breath and coughed up some blood but she was breathing again. Tears welled in her eyes and she smiled again.
She tried to hug me but she was too weak.

"Bartender! Bartender! We need some help!" I shouted.

Annie will be fine," he said. suddenly there, kneeling down to touch her forehead.

"Hey, that's my job," another man said.

"Sorry, I couldn't resist," Bartender said.

"You always did have a flare for the dramatic," the stranger said.

Where did he come from? I wondered. Who is he?

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Why, I'm Annie's Guardian," he replied, looking offended that I had asked.

"Guardian?" I repeated.

"Yeah, Guardian. You know, as in Guardian Angel. Sheesh! Don't you read your Bible?" He asked.

"Seriously? That's so cool!" I replied. "That means you..." I began to say to bartender.

"Yep. I'm your Guardian. And I gotta say, you keep me very busy. Raziel, at your service," he said.

" HER service," the other angel said, smiling.

"Angels? I love angels," Annie said, sitting up and smiling.
"Thank you," Annie said.

"You're welcome dear one," Haniel said in a gentle voice.

"Are you going to heal Ben?" Annie aske, seeing that I was in pain.

"Nope," Raziel replied. "And please, don't ask me why. We haven't got much time. Ben, you must find the salt mind."

"Salt mine?" I asked, puzzled.

"Mind! Although you do gotta mine in a mine within your mind," Raziel said.

"Won't you be mine?" Sang Annie.

Huh? I wondered, not for the last time.

"What is this, a musical?" I asked.

Haniel and Annie laughed. Raziel tried to smile, finally finding success on his third try.

"So...since you can't heal me can you at least get me somethin' to get all this blood off my hands?" I asked.

"Of course," Raziel said, throwing me a hand towel.

"Thanks," I said. "Salt mind eh? What do you mean, Raziel?"

Raziel stood up. I didn't realize before how tall he was! He towered over me and was a formidable sight to behold!

"Here! In here!" Raziel said, poking my forehead. "That is where the salt mind lies. You must find it before you can go any further."

"Okay, but can't you give me a hint or somethin'?" I asked.

"I just did!" Raziel replied, somewhat exasperated, it seemed to me.

I guess If I was my Guardian Angel I would be exasperated too, I thought. To say the least.

"If salt loses it's flavor what is it good for?" Haniel asked.

"Good line," Raziel said, glancing a Haniel.

"Wait, you're talkin' about spiritual salt, right?" I asked, feelin' I was onto something.

"No we're talking about Morton salt. Of course we are talking about spiritual salt. Are you paying attention? No. Don't answer that," Raziel said, composing himself.

"Why are you so upset mister Raziel?" Annie asked.

"Because of that," Haniel said, pointing to the old man and mind parasites. "You let them gain power over you. You created them. And there's more. This is why you must go to your salt mind."

I bowed my head in shame. He was right. I have a lot of work to do, I thought.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I know I put you through a lot of grief, Raziel."

"Ahh, it's nothing. Don't let it happen again," Raziel said gruffly.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I bumped the s hs beow this one for ny new readers or in case you wanna read it again (since it's been o freakin' long since I wrote it). Sorry guys.

As for Raziel, you may see more of him in the future, depending on how my dreams go.
In the meantime, I'll finish up the other story arc. Sorry again for taking so long.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Dang! I gotta do a better editing job. That first part of my last comment should read:

I bumped the first part of this story below this one for any new readers or in case you wanna read it again (since it's been so freakin' long since I wrote it). Sorry guys.

julie said...

You keep us hanging on, Ben, but it is always worth the wait.

It's good to see you're still fighting the battles :)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Julie!

Thanks! I hope...hope to write more often and visit your excellent blog. Everyone's excellent blogs. :^)

f/zero said...

Whoa, I like this bar. Which wouldn't be the same if Ben weren't hanging out in it. And those drinks - sheesh - pack a punch.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I just wanted to let you know that we just added a black half-mini Dachshund to the family! (She's part mini and part regular.) She's four years old and was abandoned by the owner -- very sad. But she seems really happy. She's also a ball of energy that is keeping me from sleeping or getting a moment's rest.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Dojo!

Thanks! It's definitely not a normal dive, that's for sure.
Although I do know when I'm dreaming my dreams still manage to surprise me. Some more than others.
Makes me wonder just who is writin' the story and whence it came. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Andrew!

That's great news! Have you named her yet?

Ha ha! I think that dachsi's are born full of energy that never seems to diminish much (except for nap time).
I'm certain she'll bring you lots of smiles and quite a daily workout. :^)

Please tell me you're gonna put a pic up of her. PLEASE?

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Probably no picture. But you're right -- vast amounts of energy. We've had five Dachshunds before this one and they were all a handful!

This one is named Molly. She came pre-named by the prior owner. She is very, very lovable, but also insane. She will literally bark herself hoarse trying to chase away squirrels if we let her. And she doesn't come when called. So I am spending a lot of time retrieving her from under trees at the moment. Hopefully she'll learn soon enough that to come when called.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ha ha! That's hilarious, Andrew. Little Miss is like that with...well, almost anything that moves. Although she has learned to leave slugs alone.
I do hope Molly learns to not be so obsessed with squirrels.

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