“Dance like there ain’t no tomorrow, son.” I’m near seventy, how old does someone have to be to call me son. I’m old…he’s damn old. I also thought, if there is to be no tomorrow, I plan to be doing something other than dancing.
The old man was dancin’…dancing around a bonfire that should have been warming a cool, fall evening. Instead, the roaring orange and yellow flames were adding to the oppressive heat we have been experiencing this last week of September. As I watched the embers dancing in the smoke, I worried about the red flag burning alerts that were being ignored. We haven’t had any appreciable rain in the area for six weeks and my little piece of heaven is suffering.
As I watched a hand-rolled cigarette being passed, I realized “red flags” might not be the worst law being broken. This group certainly was not suffering…unless it is from a hangover tomorrow.
The heat didn’t seem to slow the old man. He was a member of the overalls over tie-dyed crowd…a crowd I’ve only begun to embrace in my later years. I was always the “more” conservative guy in amongst the hippy types until I reassessed and from too many years in education, “monitored and adjusted.” I’ve found the tie-dyed crowd to be infinitely more caring and loving…and accepting. Seems to be the “old-fart” hippy types are just more fun. I now consider myself a “middle of the road” human.
Wiry and bent, he wore faded and patched “Oshkosh By Gosh” bib overalls over a tie-dyed tee shirt in pink and green. Jerry Garcia’s bushy hair peaked out around the bib. He wore leather brogans and a leather western style hat which failed at covering his own Jerry Garcia-like hair. Tuffs like white cotton bolls peaked out from under a floppy brim.
He had skin like tanned shoe leather, ancient and cut with crevasses rather than wrinkles. His face narrow, his nose hawk-like. His smile lit up his entire face and showed irregular teeth. It pulled tight over his cheek showing a lump from a “chaw of tobacky.” I never saw him take it out…and I never saw him spit. I doubt he has to worry about tapeworms.
Earlier in the day he had been holding court on organic, sustainable farming. He regaled us on many subjects. I paid rapt attention when he enthusiastically informed us, “Chicken and bunny shit makes for the sweetest tomatoes.” Inquiring minds want to know. I saw the old POW bracelet when he pointed at someone and silently wondered what had happened to the similar one I used to wear. Mine had been a Navy flier lost over Laos in 1967. I quit wearing it when my skin began to react to it…but not until he came home.
My new friend had bushy salt and pepper eyebrows. Like mine, uncontrollable and wild when left to grow. His had been left to grow for a while. I found them distracting as we shared a bit of conversation and a sip or five of white liquor. The unaged spirit of this past summer’s corn bounty exploded in my stomach causing my perspiration to perspire. The old boy looked at me and smiled, “Smooth ain’t it?” I nodded as my eyes watered.
He had a bit of a snake-oil salesman’s delivery as he tried to convince me, “It’s organic and natural. Consumed in moderation, medicinal. Consumed in excess…well, what don’t kill ya makes ya stronger.” He laughed at himself and slapped me on the shoulder before going back to dancin’ with a group of little girls who called him Pappi Tom.
I watched him as he allowed his internal child to run wild. Janis’s voice, tinny from the speakers of an ancient boom box, lamented her lack of a Mercedes, a color TV, and a night on the town.
I’m lamenting my tight assed self. I watched the old man fast dancin’ with anyone nearby and realized what I’ve always known, “I have issues about turnin’ loose.” I don’t have an internal child and I want one. Maybe I need to join the group passing the odd-smelling cigarette around. I’ve never been able to quit worrying about who might be watching.
Dancin’, religion…getting undressed in the light of day. Yeah, I am one tight assed forker of mortar. There is a quote by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, “Almost nobody dances sober unless they happen to be insane.” My new friend is not suffering from sobriety and I feel the need to join him.
Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who writes to pass the time he no longer has. His writer’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.