The Sentinel

IMG_1028

Painting by Richard Rensberry

If I were a redwood,
I’d stand on a mountain shrouded in fog.
I’d be the tallest and grandest of all. Continue reading

Advertisements

I Saw It Coming, Part 13

IMG_1586

     Skinny could have cried foul and leaned on his cane, but he didn’t.  He followed my lead and was industrious.  He methodically went about dismantling his handy work board by board with a pry bar and a hammer, careful not to split the old wood.  I liked his quiet demeanor and finesse.

     I paused and looked across the property to the Home Depot, it was quit busy.

     “See those guys hanging out in the Home Depot parking lot?” I asked, pointing to a group of Mexicans milling about near the back entrance.

     Skinny looked up, nodded his head and went back to pulling on a stubborn nail.

     “You speak any Spanish?” I asked.

     “See, street talk.  I grew up in Oakland near Fruitvale.”

     “Good.  They work hard,” I said, “but most of them fake it when it comes to English.  If we hire a few of them you could speak your way around their jive, right?”

     “No problemo.”

     “Then that’s what we are going to do.  We have a whole work force right here on our doorstep.   I will pay you what I offered if you can get them to dismantle the rest of these buildings with the same care and finesse that you are using on your artwork.”

     The kid looked from me to the Mexicans, then back to me.  “Bossman?” he asked.

     “Bossman.”

     He grinned and dropped his hammer.

     Bossman was going to fit him like a shirt.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 4

IMG_0984

I ran into The Vulture as he was coming out of Mrs. Cooley’s market.  He was carrying a paper bag with an assortment of healthy looking greens sticking out of the top.

“Good stuff.”  I remarked, gesturing toward the bag.

His eyes darted right, then left two or three times before he backpedaled.  Then he realized he had nowhere to go but out through me.

“How’s Skinny’s ankle?” I asked, hoping to disarm some of his mistrust.

The Vulture wanted no part of it.  He sidled further away.

“He been bothering you any?” I asked.

The Vulture stepped toward me and  feigned like he was going to scuttle out past me, but I didn’t budge.

“Those for your mother?”  I asked, pointing to the greens.

He mustered a slight nod of his head.

“Good lady.  Tell her Sugar says hi and wishes her a happy birthday.”

The Vulture dropped his guard slightly and a wry smile twitched his lips.

I turned to the side and let him scuttle past.  He rocketed up the street like a worried crab.

I had already decided that I needed to pay Skinny a visit and my encounter with The Vulture reminded me I had better confront the matter directly.  I needed him.  He was one of the cornerstones for Ned’s and my endeavor though I hadn’t confessed this point to Ned.

Skinny was fairly smart and in the scheme of things I knew that could be his downfall.  I needed to find out if his intelligence could be redirected toward a greater good and that would have a lot to do with how he perceived weakness and strength in himself and in others.  I was hopeful after what had transpired in the alley by Gordo’s Liquor Store that I had a running chance.

I found him down at Tin Man’s Doughnuts.  It was a popular hangout for many reasons.  Mostly it was cheap but the doughnuts were actually pretty good and the coffee was rich and flavorful.  The place was also lively.  There were always chess games and people playing cards.  It was populated by a mixed bag of gamers, gangsters, bookies and cops.  It seemed that everyone got along while indulging in gambling and sweets at the Tin Man’s.

I hadn’t been there for a few months, but nothing had changed.  it smelled of sugar and stale grease.  The Tin Man was parked behind the counter lording over the cash register.  He was very large, probably six foot five and 280 pounds.  I think that is why everyone seemingly got along.

He cordially nodded at me and I nodded back.

Skinny was at the counter with a pair of crutches leaning against the wall a few feet to his right.  His ankle was in a cast.  I’d heard rumors that he’d invented a story about how he had been the victim of a nasty skateboard fall.

“I hear you fell off your board,” I said standing directly behind him.

“Yah, took a good one over on Petrero.”  He said without turning around to see who I was.  “I really busted up my ankle.”

“Tough hill to skate,” I said.

“Not so much,” he replied, “I just don’t give a shit.”

“Me either,” I said, “your version is as good as gold to me.”

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming, Part 2

IMG_0984    I Saw It Coming, Part 2

I thought they were probably going to take me into the alley by Gordo’s Liquor Store.  I had been in there and knew there was a recess about half way down that housed the liquor store garbage containers.  It was smelly and full of shadows, a perfect spot for them to do their dirty deed.  I’m sure they had it figured to where they’d be long gone by the time I was able to pick myself up and scramble for help.

I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to need any help.  Of course a little doubt always seems to elbow it’s way in at times like these and this time was no exception.  What if Skinny had the rest of the gang sequestered away in the alley for reinforcements.  In that case, I would be overwhelmingly out numbered and in big trouble.  This wasn’t a Hollywood stunt.  This was real life, mine.

My antennae popped up and went on full alert.  I had to be ready for anything.

We paused at the alley and both boys looked around.  It was eerily quiet.  The street was mostly empty of pedestrians and devoid of cars.   Mrs. Cooley was putting out oranges in front of her tiny market and there was a lady walking her black poodle near the bank.  Other than those two people nothing was going on.  A surreptitious glance into the alley fortified my belief that it was also deserted.

“This way old man.”

Of course it was The Skinny One with all of his bravado that hissed and gave me a yank.  I had planned to take them by the garbage cans, but the yank disengaged me from The Vulture and I used the momentum to fall and roll.  I grabbed Skinny by the shirt, planted my feet in his groin and tossed him into the alley on the backside of my roll.  There was a disconcerting crunch.

“You Mo Fo!” he growled in obvious pain.

That was sugar to my ears.  I had him wounded but thankful that it wasn’t mortally.

I rolled back onto my feet into a crouch and braced myself to pounce on The Vulture.  But The Vulture hadn’t moved, he was standing frozen at the mouth of the alley.  His mind and eyes looked as if they were running on Meth overdrive.

“What the Hell you lookin at?”  Skinny railed from the alley behind me, “Get the old coot.”

Vulture mustered a hesitant lurch toward me and then stopped as we locked eyes.  He didn’t like what he was seeing and that was enough, he turned and boogied back up toward the bank.

I put my attention back on Skinny.  He had managed to get himself into a sitting position up against the brick of the liquor store.  His left ankle was clearly broken and was going to need a good surgeon to piece it back together.  He moaned.

“I am going to go into the liquor store and call an ambulance,” I said, “But before I do I want to give you a little advice to think about.  You do have the capacity to think, don’t you?”

He glared at me.

“I mean what I say.”  I emphasized.

He continued to glare but was obviously struggling with the pain.  I could see the beginnings of a crack forming in his facade.

“It goes like this,” I said, “The Vulture flew the coop.  It is not a bad thing to do when flying is called for.  He saved himself a world of hurt and a visit to the hospital.  I know in your mind that he saved nothing because he didn’t save you.  It is your intention to hurt him bad because you failed to hurt me.  I’m telling you to drop it.  You and your little gang.  Just leave him alone.  The consequences of dishonoring me and hurting him are not something you can afford.”

My eyes bore into him.  “Do we have an understanding?”  I asked as I pressed him harder with my will.

The pain was more than he could bear.  He dropped his head and looked away.  His body wilted and his bravado vanished into the broken lost child he truly was.  A sob suddenly escaped his constricted throat.

I knelt beside him and gingerly put my hand on his head.  It was a calculated risk I was willing to take.  He flinched but didn’t bite.  To his everlasting benefit, The Skinny One gave in.  He asked for help.

I rose and turned to go.

“Thank you,” he said or he didn’t.  I can’t say for sure, I can only hope.

Part 3 to come soon.  Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

I Saw It Coming

.    image           I Saw It Coming, The Series.  Part 1

I hike everyday.  It is energizing and allows my spirit to open up to my surroundings.  I am able to observe with the spirit’s eye and see universes beyond the physical reality of things.  I am delighted to take photographs and collect artifacts like feathers and wood for use in recreating what I have seen in my imagination.

On my many wanderings I have come to find hidden and secluded places where almost no human ever ventures anymore.   I am not talking about the wilderness, I am talking about within the city limits of San Francisco.  Most of The City is a massive tangle of abutted structures, but not all.  There are forsaken copses of trees and open spaces in this bustling cityscape.  Some appear forgotten as the now condemned Berlinski’s Hardware that sits forlorn with its boarded-up windows next to a twenty-first century Home Depot.  I used to frequent that old Hardware Store and it was way more interesting than Home Depot could ever dream of being.

My name is The Surest Sugar Maple.  The Elders christened me with the namesake as a young child because of my propensity to take calculated risks that none of the other kids could wrap their wits around.  I was the one that climbed the railroad trestle and tied the rope so we could fly out over the cliff and fall into the river.  I hunted and snared the rattlesnakes that were fodder for our moccasins.

If I wasn’t sure about a dare or a challenge, I wouldn’t take it on until I had it figured out to where the odds were in my favor.  I couldn’t be swayed but I could be bought.  It served me well in Hollywood where I spent many years working with the likes of John Wayne, Fess Parker, and Jimmy Stewart.  I was one of the Indians falling off horses, cliffs and bar stools.  I have an abundance of physical wounds to show for it, but I am alive and a very rich man because of it.

I am also old, but I am not as decrepit as the cocky little teenagers think.  They have begun to follow me at times and are over-confident, foolish and blind.  Their bodies are full of fast food and drugs.  They lack the power of observation.  They only see an old man, they do not see beneath the surface where I am fleet as a gazelle when and if I need and want to be.

The Skinny One and The Vulture had been waiting to ambush me when I came out of the Wells Fargo on Biscayne Street.  The Skinny One sidled up to me on my left while The Vulture nervously poked something implying a gun into my ribs.

“Gotcha old man,” The Skinny One hissed.  He was their teenage lips, their fear and their bravado all mixed up into one.  Of all the little gangsters that I had noticed he seemed like the one that was dangerous.  “Just do as I say,” he said, “And maybe you’ll live to tell your chess playing Bros about shitting your pants down at the Wells Fargo.”

What he didn’t have was the gun.  It was The Vulture that had the weapon in my ribs and I had  since surmised that he had no business as a hoodlum.  He was too sensitive, weak minded and a coward.  Besides that, I had purposely bumped him with my elbow and there had been no weight behind the supposed weapon.  It was either his finger or maybe a plastic water pistol.

They ushered me down Biscayne.  An old man and a couple of teenagers out for a stroll.   As they did so, I quickly concluded that I was probably in no real danger.  That’s the luxury of having made  a calculated risk,  the odds are in your favor.  When I added it up, one way or another they were destined to lose.  They were high on adrenalin and probably cocaine.  They were having visions of how they had already won.

To be continued.

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books®

When War Comes, A Short Story

IMG_0921         When War Comes

He was my older brother by spirit, not by blood.  He could look through the eyes of the crow or the hawk and see you even when he wasn’t present.  He had what the elders called far vision.  He had the ears of a deer and the wings of a duck.  He could disappear at will.

I adored him.

He told me, “Stop being a puppy, young Night Bird.”

He often came decorated with paint in the colors of a warrior.  He pointed with a finger and spoke with his hands.  He would grab my tongue and give a shake of his head if I spoke too loud near the water where we fished.  He gave me feathers for lessons and beads rubbed raw by the swirling currents of the river.  He gifted me the paw of a weasel when I showed him a nest of pheasant eggs.

I looked up to receive his praise.

He told me, “Don’t put your eggs in another man’s basket.”

He helped me find an ash to carve a bow.  He taught me the way of sticks and how they bend just right when they plead to be an arrow.  He showed me rituals on how to ask the feather where it goes and how to honor flint when it is broken.  I was coached on how to say the words to make an arrow fly true to its kill.

I found truth in what he said.

He told me, “Truth is worthless to the dead.”

He tested me like the leather I used to string my bow.  He tested my patience and my will.  He approved or disapproved.  It all depended on the direction of the wind.  I could tell by the the lift of his chin when he knew that I knew.

I smiled at his knowledge.

He told me, “A lesson learned is a lesson you forgot.”

We practiced until I bled and my blood became a vessel that poured my spirit into the bow, until my hands were indistinguishable from the rose of the wood.  I shot arrow after arrow, day upon day two years in a row.  I could stand on my head or I could sit, I could run or I could crawl, leap or flip.  It didn’t matter to my arrows, they had learned to arrive where I had meant them to go.  They were I and I was them and in an instant I could snatch an arrow out of flight and whisk it back from where it came.

I was cocky with my aim.

He told me, “The pheasant that crows too soon and too loud gets eaten.”

He took me to the mountains and taught me how to hunt like the big cats and climb like the goats.  I was shown the camouflage of painted faces and the different spirits they conjure for their host.  He spoke the words behind the smoke and the rhythms of the tom-toms.  We danced the dances, chanted our chants and in the Spring I came to be a man in the arms of Silver Birch.

I went to her in the night.

He told me, “Love is a warrior’s strength and his weakness combined.”

We sat in silence amidst the bustle of the many young boys as they searched to retrieve our arrows.  They plucked them from the grass where we practiced and brought them back to our quivers by name.  We traded for their efforts with feathers and beads or candy for the ones that shook their heads.  One That Grows Fat In the Middle is my little brother by blood.  My Little Brother by spirit is Cloud In The Eye.  He too likes candy above feathers and often cries to my dismay.  I do not recall myself in his childish manners.  He seems to lack the will in search of his honor.

Older Brother clicks his teeth.  He points and gestures with his chin, “Some boys are men, some boys are squaws.  It’s good to know which,” he said, “when war comes.”

Richard Rensberry, Author at QuickTurtle Books™