MOUNT MORRIS -THE CABIN
What’s going on?” Cousin Jed said, wielding a disdainful disposition, his fingers scavenging the wretched daily, its pages pockmarked with expositions of mayhem, murder, and maudlin tales drawn from the cities of Iraq.
“This fucking world is not the place for soldiers,” he barked. He got up off the rickety chair, flipped open his Budweiser, took a swig, then another and turned to Johnny Littlefeather. “What’s your position?” Johnny?
Johnny Littlefeather, not one to politicize his thoughts, shook his head. Cousin Jed, his indignation prompting a long swig, followed by a crushing of the can, limped over to the window, flipped back the curtain.
Snowflakes fell from the sky. Birds of various feather – Canadian geese, Mallard duck, American Black duck—skated across the pond. Besides Cousin Jed’s brooding reflections, it would be a wonderful day—our coterie assembled in rustic outpost, inspired by warmth of the open hearth.
Cousin Jed got himself another Bud, returned to his chair, flipped through the pages of the daily again. “This world ain’t happening, man. Too much going on.”
I couldn’t agree more. There’s a lot going on, that’s for sure—way too much to worry about. It will only drive you mad, and with Cousin Jed’s sporadic inclination to depression and despondency, I think it best for him, not to take too variegated a look beyond the periphery of the “here and now.”
In time, perhaps would we, the people of the street gather on a more dignified platform and espouse our concerns of the worldly affair to the world.
Dooley and Mammie pulled up in the van that he rented for our get-away jaunt; their run into town to secure a stock of victuals completed by a lay on the horn. Getting to know Dooley better I knew this prompt was for us to help him unload—his generosity and his winnings encouraging him a lengthy spree through the marketplace.
Little Sis and The Mayor had engaged themselves in a game of rummy — their joviality not enough to convince Cousin Jed to rise above his melancholy– his ruminations I suspect, drawn still from the forlorn days of his divorce, the bankruptcy — the nadirs of life’s unexpected turn.
Dooley too, for so long, had convinced himself of bitterness and chafe upon the stone but as of late, Dooley’s in good stead–he and Mammie gliding along to another improv of tango. Such transformations enliven thy spirit. Dei gratia!
Earlier Dooley had communicated to us an extended stay — this cabin, that of his cousin, won’t be rented out until next week, “by a couple coming up from St. Louis. So we can stay here until Thursday.” By then, the arctic blast that had descended upon our encampment would’ve moved elsewhere.
“Hey Roman man, what the fuck’s with this world?” I turned around. Cousin Jed had gotten up, one hand still cupping the Bud, the other rubbing his eyes. “Tell me, man . . . why should I stick around? We’re not going anywhere. We’re stuck in this hell hole. Why don’t you fucking admit it. You know goddamn well that it’s the truth. Day after day, same shit. A fucking hell hole, man.”
Dooley had set course–the compass directed east. Our stay up at the cabin had concluded with a celebratory round up at a cozy little spot in Mount Morris–a small, unassuming town near enough the rolling farmland to ensure its rustic sensibilities. Anchored amidst the town square sat the “Illinois State Freedom Bell — a replica of the Liberty Bell,” Dooley said as we slowly passed. Cousin Jed, mood on the upswing, peered out delightfully at the “mark of liberty” and turned to me, his smile brimming wide.
“Roman, now that’s what it’s all about.”
“Freedom definitely is what it’s all about, Cuz. As I had iterated on various occasion freedom is paramount to the achievement of unbridled contentment. And, as I had learned contentment is too often compromised to artifice.”
“You mean like some of the reasons for the bullshit wars,” said Johnny Littlefeather. He, not one to reference the politics of the world had broken his refrain the other night.
Finally, after enough submersion of mood by the then rankled Cousin Jed, Johnny broke his silence. Enlivened by a split or two of the spirit juice (apricot wine and rum) he took up in the discussion.
His ruminations concerning the histories of his own people turned swiftly Cousin Jed’s sour notes into a sustainable melody and throughout the rest of the night the bongos and the tom-toms were more attuned to the upbeat.
Jessamyn Rains – Holy (Sanctus)
Gathered all in complete remission we danced near the hearth. Any sign of previous engagement with disconsolate thought had been put to rest. Carpe Diem!
“Yes, I’d say that artifice had played a role in a few of the most recent wars. But beyond that, I am talking about individual freedoms.”
“Like freedom of choice,” remarked Little Sis. “At least, I have that now.”
What a difference in her demeanor, her outlook– now the gentle contours of her soft, angelic-like face in great contrast to the shadowy skull of humanity portrayed to me that one night while she, still under the spell of the two-bit pimp, knew not of freedom.
How grateful I am for that night– the night my life intersected with hers. If anything, the bailment I offered upon her wearying soul that night gave a boost to her self-esteem–the first step in the gaining of her freedom.
Just at the outskirts of town with the Thank you for Visiting Mount Morris sign fading in the distance The Mayor emerged from his quietude and excitedly pronounced his religion: “I am a believer. If God isn’t responsible for the miracle of that little girl then I will close my eyes for good.”
I knew to whom his praise was dedicated. While in the library on the computer I received an e-mail from one of my correspondents — a writer who also lives in the Chicago area. He related to me his convictions of the Renaissance– “then it was Michelangelo, Divinci and now we have those like Akiane,” he wrote.
I followed his link to her website and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn Ricky was truly on to something. I knew this girl was born in Mount Morris but somehow it had slipped my mind. I took a deep breath, then turned to The Mayor.
“Are you talking about Akiane?”
“Yes. So you do know of her. What’s your take?”
“Akiane Kramirik– the precocious and prodigious artist, poet and as of late, musical composer –had been provided these gifts for good reason, I believe. Messenger perhaps? Are there Messengers? Predestined? Preordained? Manifestations of the Greater Power for the Greater Good? Yes, I truly believe these propositions are valid enough to reinvigorate my own convictions.”
The Mayor sat up more into a rigid configuration. “I had heard that the girl’s mother was an atheist. What’s your ideas on the religions, Roman?”
“Akiane’s mother was an atheist — it was her right. Freedom of choice. Whatever your belief it is your right. Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists–freedoms of choice. As it should be. Diversity of ideas is highly commendable. Differences in belief systems to enslave, harm, or cause ill will toward another is not. “
Copyright 2021 by Leonardo Lampanelli and Golden Renaissance Productions