Milk Run in Idaho by Ben Garlow

Trying to get to West Yellowstone for work, I caught a train on a milk run out of Twin Falls up to Rexburg, Idaho; riding with the rail men in the wooden caboose, a pot belly stove fired up with coal to take the chill off the 5 a.m. morning. About every two to three miles the train would stop where dirt roads crossed the tracks, and we would drop off 10 gallon, mushroom-top, metal milk jugs weighing about 80 pounds each, and pick up the empties. I never saw anybody, but helping out paid for my train ride.

From Rexburg it was about a ½ hour bus ride up to West Yellowstone, but today there were no buses running. Sitting at the train station mulling over my situation I noticed a green and white Chevy going up the street to its end, turns around, comes back to the station, and in a swirl of dust goes back up the street again. I’ve never seen a car pacing back and forth; I motion it to stop, and it does.
Approaching the drivers side the window rolls down, and a young man, about my age, is sitting behind the wheel.
“Nice car, yours?”
“I saw ya driving around, and wondered if you’d drive me up to West Yellowstone. I’ll buy the gas and a six pack. That’s if you want to, and you’re not doing anything else?”
“Sure. Nothing better to do, my mom just died.”
The ride was long and silent. Some days there’s nothing better to do than putting some miles on the pain to wear it out.

Excerpt from “Pistol whipped and left for dead in Idaho. A comedy of two acts.” Ben Garlow 2008 copyright

Illustration by Niya Sisk

Short Shorts…(words, not lingerie folks!) by Ben Garlow

Dr. Paine, His Bagpipe and Neil Young
Years ago, when I was living on Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch, he turned me onto a San Francisco dentist, Dr. Rodney Paine. To relax me, and I assume his other patients, he would play his bagpipe before administering his special cocktail of narcotics into my receptive body. Later in our relationship he would come out to the ranch, and walk the hills at sunset playing his bagpipe. Soon after, his office was closed down, and he disappeared.

Excerpt from “Short tidbits, long memories” Ben Garlow 2008 copyright

John Steinbeck and Otter
Years ago I was on a literary pilgrimage to visit the areas my hero, John Steinbeck, wrote about. It was early morning, misty and cool, as I sat, legs dangling from the wharf called Cannery Row. I spotted, below me, an otter swimming on its back. On its stomach was an abalone shell, and he beat it rhythmically with a sharp stone.
“Why are you doing that?” I called down.
“Because communication is the responsibility of the sender”, came the otterish reply.
I swear to gawd this really happened. Everything, and everybody is a freakin guru.

Excerpt from “Short tidbits, long memories” Ben Garlow 2008 copyright

Blue Moon by Verna Wilder

In the middle of the night she enters the grocery store from the dark parking lot, blinking the light from her eyes, her lids coming down slowly, leaving grocery images on the backside of her eyelids:  red Quaker Oats bins with the smiling man in the black hat, apples mounded to pyramids, coffee cans green and red like Christmas, detergent boxes in a chorus line of cleanliness.  Then she opens her eyes, opens her coat slowly, button by button, as if for a lover who will take her with gentle, loving licks.  She pulls a cart from its ugly coupling, slings her worn grey purse into the child carrier, and wobbles past the produce, squeezing and pinching and palming the fruit, raising an apple to her face to breathe in a Washington state summer with her family in 1952.  In those days everybody liked Ike and her parents danced together at their own party to “Picnic,” her favorite song, and she dreamt taffeta-skirted dreams in the bottom bunk, her little brother muttering in his sleep in the bed above her.  She puts the apple back precisely, her fingers lingering over its red smoothness before she walks on, pushing the cart ahead of her.  The bananas are greenly ripe, firm and fragrant, breakfast size.  She hefts a bunch, pulls two fine ones from the stem, and lays them carefully in the bottom of the cart.  She hums to the murky music coming from the speakers she never can see.  Blue Moon.

The Last Road by Verna Wilder

I am 16 and driving fast down a long, straight stretch of road leading from one nowhere to another, the road an abandoned ribbon of gradual dips and rises, trees crowding in from either side, a strip of night sky illuminated by moonlight, and I can see how, at this time of night, and at this speed, and with the wind rushing past like a huge loping animal, I can see how the Trans Am leapt the road and flew like a fast-pitch baseball right through the buckeye tree, then cottonwood and ash, the car leaping and rolling long after Bobby Lee has been flung from the flying steel, long after his neck snapped and his wide eyes saw moonlight and leaves and then nothing at all, the car flipping, tires thrown wild, bent fender and broken window glass, tail light and hub caps, the disco music thumping, radio intact long past Bobby Lee’s ability to hear it.

Bobby Lee, cousin of the first kiss, the kiss of beer and cigarettes. Now I drive this highway fast and sober, no music to mourn this anniversary.

“Don’t you go out there,” Mother said to me after fried chicken and creamed corn, the six of us kids and Mother and Daddy all eating in silence, no one saying Bobby Lee’s name, no one saying, “One year ago this minute he was not yet dead,” but me thinking with every bite that one year ago this minute we had not yet fought about his drinking, which he wouldn’t quit, and my virginity, which I intended to keep.

Now I am driving fast down Bobby Lee’s last road after backing out of the driveway, tires spitting gravel, Mother running after the car screaming at me not to go, just as I had run after Bobby Lee’s tricked-out Trans Am, screaming at him not to go, and now with the broken trees overgrown again and reaching for me as I pass, I know exactly where Bobby Lee’s car went off the road, and I know as I slow my car on this ribbon road that there was no accident here, just Bobby Lee taking his left hand off of the steering wheel, maybe holding that hand out the car window as I’ve seen him do so many times, to let the rush of air pull the hand down and up and down again, and then his beer hand twitching the steering wheel before the decision could be unmade. I know this as sure as I know Bobby Lee, and I slow, pull over, and park on the scarred earth where Bobby Lee’s car took flight.

4 Pound Boyfriend by Niya C. Sisk

I have this rabbit. He thinks he’s my boyfriend. He weighs 4 lbs.
When I had a male friend over last week, I tried to introduce the two of them. Dakota, the rabbit put his right ear over his eye.
My friend said, “I guess male bonding is out of the question.”

The other day I put my yoga mat out. As I leaned over to do downward dog, Dakota, just a few feet away on his green blanket hiked his little butt up in the air and stretched his little buff colored front paws forward as far as they would go in the same position. He looked at me out of the corner of eye as he gave a yawn, like, “Is this all you got?”

“No way! You’ve got to be joking.” I decided this didn’t happen, and then lay down for a spinal twist. He, flopped his body down, rolled side to side and stopped in the middle on his back. His ears flopped and splayed out on the floor, he gave me a good stare.

Bunny Yoga? No way. I wanted something normal so I called a friend. “My rabbit just joined me in a little yoga on the floor”.
My friend laughed like friends do when they pretend you didn’t really say anything.

The next morning I went to let him out of his cage. The minute he saw me, he did another downward dog and then scratched at the cage door to be let out to his pen for his morning activities. “Don’t you want a girlfriend your own size?” I said, with a slightly fearful plead in my voice. “She’ll be there always, you won’t have to wait like this. She’ll lick your nose and stare at you for hours. You’ll still be ‘Big Boss’ I promise. He put his ear over his right eye so he didn’t have to look at me while I made such a ridiculous suggestion. Rabbits are all about dignity and respect.

Well, and…territory.

The other day, he was freezing me out like I was the scum of the earth. So, I started playing with my hair, pretending to groom myself. In rabbit language, this means “lighten up.” And he did. He came running over to me, laid down flat and looked at me like “Aren’t I the most handsome, macho, adorable man you’ve ever seen your life?” And I relented with an irresistible sigh.

Sometimes, I think–well, what about me? So, I lay on the ground. I sang him a Spanish song. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind and then chewed on my hair.

So I decided I’m getting him a girlfriend. I have a life to lead, work to do. I have relaxing to do. I HAVE FINDING MY OWN KIND TO DO. And, no offense to him but I like bigger guys.

I have to do something! I really do before I start doing bunny yoga, wasting a good man’s time with me, or putting my hair over my eyes when I don’t like what you’re saying to me.

author: niya cristine sisk. all rights reserved