Came The Hawk, Came The Children, Came, Perfect.
"I wanna fit in to the perfect space,
feel natural and safe in a volatile place…"
Dateline: The Lion of Oz
From Alan Ellis came this:
Ok DB, here's your mission, if you should choose to accept it. No particular event, no certain angler for this story, but it'll take some serious thought on your part. Tell me about the single most memorable, magical thing you personally have been witness to during all your years following the Bassmaster tournament events. Tell me the who, where, what and the why, .and most of all, make me feel like I'm living that moment as I read your script. Leave us your legacy of a story so richly told the emotions are almost palpable as your words draw each of us a mental picture to relive it with you.
Alan I love this because what it is going to allow me to do is to reach down your throat and pull you inside out.
Rub the bile on your cheeks.
Grab your ankles, swing you around, and launch you into the universe.
Because that's what the three most memorable things that happened out here on the tour did to me.
Taste your tears Alan.
Gurgle the bile in the back of your throat.
Breathe in spasms, snot running down the back of your throat.
Buckle up, because, in two of these stories, I stood in the rain, I stood in the snow, and I looked to the heavens and shouted out, told our Maker he sucked, asked this of our Maker, "If you have the balls, turn back the clock, turn back the clock and take me, take me and not them. COME FOR ME NOW YOU S.O.B."
And then I sat in my minivan and cried.
And then I sat in the db/bb/rv and puked.
And gave the universe the finger.
"…and I wanna grow old without the pain,
give my body back to the earth and not complain.…"
He stood in the passing lane, and as I flew by him in my minivan in the slow lane, we locked eyes, and in that fraction of a second I saw the history of misery.
And then he died.
A horrible death, an explosion on impact as the eighteen-wheeler had no chance of slowing down.
I had just crested a hill on RT 78 in New Jersey. I was coming home from a month or so on the tour. At the top of the hill it started to snow. Some cars had left the road. Some fools in cars were about to.
Going up the hill my front-wheel-drive wheels started spinning and the little yellow light on the dash of the Toyota Sienna kept coming on; the squiggly line which is the universal sign to stop acting stupid.
So I checked the passenger side mirror, and gently moved the wheel to the right, sloshed through the salt and goop between the lanes and settled into the tracks made by tires before me.
I had just reached up and hit the stalk on the steering wheel that squirted the blue stuff on the windshield, hit the button that took the minivan off cruise, and went from the intermittent wipe to wipe on high.
That's when I saw what was standing in the passing lane.
Standing upright and facing direct-on to what was about to come over the hill.
And as I went by, I turned my head, and he tipped his head, and we looked at each other, eye to eye…
...and time slowed down, for me.
I saw dignity, I saw grace, I saw misery, and I think I saw in his eye, compassion, compassion to let him go, it was as it had to be.
Yet I hit the brakes. Crossed two lanes of traffic and slid almost sideways on the side of the road, inches from the guard rail, slammed the shift on the dash into reverse and was about to floor it backwards, when the eighteen-wheel Mayflower Moving Van topped the hill.
And I screamed as he just stood there, and I screamed as the huge truck locked up the brakes, screamed as the back of the rig started heading my way in a slow skid, screamed "Noooo..." as my left hand lifted the door handle as my right hand hit the belt buckle release.
But it was over before my foot hit the soil of Jersey.
And as the truck righted itself and continued down the hill, as other cars zoomed by and splashed the brown salt on my army green LL Bean Tropic Weight Pants I stood on the side of the road, stood in the salt, stood in the snow melting on my head, stood with the tears running down my cheek.
Stood staring at the spot where he once stood.
Stood staring at where he was now none.
Stood by the side of the road where the hawk landed.
Stood by the side of the road where the hawk with the badly damaged wing, called his shot.
Cried for the beauty of nature.
Cursed the universe that allows hawks to break their wings.
"…will you understand when I am too old of a man…"
They took me to the exact spot where the tornado took vengeance on the earth.
The tornado had sucked all the dirt out of the ground, moved some, and then peeled the asphalt off the road in a straight line.
As I stood outside the cop car and took pictures, the Sheriff inside knocked on his window and with his finger pointed up above me, pointed over my shoulder, and when I followed his point, turned around and looked at what was left of a tree and then slowly looked up, up about twenty feet or so…
...to the John Deere Lawn Tractor setting upside down between two branches.
When I turned full circle I saw two sets of steps that lead to family homes...now gone. On either side of the concrete steps that lead only to the sky, sat two other homes, intact, with flowerpots still sitting on the front porch.
I watched a man in a tattered white tee shirt try to climb a tree, would get half way up the trunk and then slide back down, watched as another man brought over a ladder, only to find it was twisted too much to lay flat against the tree.
I then watched as two grown men picked up rocks and threw them into the tree, hoping to knock down the shirts and pants that were now the only leaves left on the tree.
I watched through my clouding up Costas as a shirt hit the ground, and the man in the tattered tee walked over, picked it up, and put it on.
I watched a line of dirt grow in my hand as the tears of a child ran down my arm as he held onto what was left of his fishing rod and reel. Listened as he tried to tell me how it was the one Grampa had given him.
Wiped my cheeks as he told me that his Grampa was gone, and now, so was the only pole he had ever given him.
Took to one knee in the dirt as another child showed me a twisted branch of his family's artificial Christmas tree, the tree long gone, as were all the toys that were EVER underneath it.
Tasted bile as the road in front of us was closed as rescue workers removed bodies from trees.
And as I left Cullman, Alabama and the surrounding area I beeped the horn and hit the button that lowered the driver's side window and when the men who were playing golf on a golf course in a part of town not destroyed by the tornado, when they looked up I flipped them the bird, and yelled, "You suck," and turned my gaze upwards to the heavens…
...and did the same thing.
Come for me, not the children.
Come for me, not the innocent.
Come for me, if you've got the balls.
And turned left on the on ramp and headed for the next Elite tournament, this one on West Point Lake.
And hit the cruise button while knowing that I would never be able to cruise through life again.
Crossed into Georgia while leaving a part of my soul quivering in the dust, and the ruins, of Alabama.
A state, a people, I vow to stand in the path of any other tornadoes that come their way.
"…and will you forget when we have paid our debt…"
I could taste the morning on the back of my tongue.
I could see balls of dew, become one with Oneida Lake.
I could feel the wind, hear the waves kiss the shore.
Watched as the sun woke up the earth.
And then I saw the child. Watched as he fished from the rocks and paid no attention to the men of the Elites as they idled past him on their way to a launch.
Watched as the child just kept fishing.
Watched as the universe showed me, not the destruction it brings, not the death it brings, but the flip side of the coin.
Showed me, why some believe in God.
Painted me a watercolor of what Eden looks like.
Gave me a snapshot of heaven.
When it showed me peace on earth.
When it showed me a child fishing on a rock.
When it showed me, what…
"…who did we borrow from? Who did we borrow from?"
The Perfect Space
The Avett Brothers
Editor's note: Here's how you can give db his next story idea.