Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Meadow, a short story - Escape, escapist, escapee, escapable, escaper

Here's the last of my "best of" since the rest were posted in 2014.

The Meadow
copyright by L. Burl Dunn

Some places, like some people, never get noticed.  No one thought of it as a little bit of country right in town.  No one thought of it at all.  The city had
grown up all around it and left it behind- this bit of green grass surrounded by impenetrable bushes.  It took several twists of fate to isolate it.  The freeway came by on one side, and technically the city owned this little acre. The University bought up all the houses nearby, razed them, and built a huge new parking lot.  So here it was, a paradise for rabbits and birds.  The thorny bushes kept out dogs and even most cats. It simply was a meadow hidden in plain sight.  And so it thrived.  Downhill enough to collect
rainwater runoff in the center.  High enough for excess water to trickle away from the edges.  The ring of thorns gave way to Virginia Creeper, which shaded
ferns and moss.  A rabbit breaking into this vegetation would be rewarded with sweet grasses and wildflowers flourishing in the middle of a blacktop and concrete monstrosity called a city. 
Billy Bond had passed by this way often on his way from the Mission to Free Lunch. Once he relieved himself there and was gouged by the thorns. Today he
needed considerably more room to hide in.  He knew he wouldn’t make it to Free Lunch’s toilets. Going back to the Mission meant dealing personally with the staff. Instead of being just another bum in the food line, he would be asking a favor and God knows what kind of extra sermon went with a favor. So Billy looked around, saw no one, and pushed his way back first into the tangle.  This didn’t get him too far so he lay down and squirmed underneath, an old beer can digging into his back.  The click of someone’s heels motivated him enough to push on out of sight in a hurry and still he was in the thorns. No way to stand up or squat or do anything that wouldn’t tear his  clothes and skin.
“Jesus,” muttered Billy, and then, on a whim he churned his legs and dug in with his feet and shoved deeper into the tangle. Now he was halfway in, but he
didn’t know it.  All he knew was that he was on his way to an accident he couldn’t afford and going out wasn’t the answer.  So in he shoved.  Scrape, cut,
dig, gouge went the bushes and, silently, push, push went Billy’s feet.
And then, he broke through.  “Jesus,” exclaimed Billy before he got down to business. The Virginia creeper was turning colors.  The blue and yellow wildflowers
added dazzling accents in the morning sun.  “I found the Garden of Eden” thought Billy.
Billy spent that day lounging in the sun and shade, staring up at clouds and blue sky.  He was hungry, but he couldn’t tear himself away from his little Eden. He carried his pint of water in an old whiskey bottle.
 He had two rolls from last night’s Mission dinner. When it clouded up and a light rain began to fall, he
put on his “poor man’s raincoat.”  This was something he’d learned bumming on the trains from an old Indian who called it a “sheepherders raincoat.”  “See,” the
shameless old Indian said as he stripped down.  “You take off your clothes and put them in a grocery sack until the rain stops.”  Billy had laughed his ass off
at the naked Indian, but when that rain stopped the old man dried in the sun, pulled his dry clothes back on, and laughed in turn at poor, cold Billy, soaked to the skin for the rest of the day.
It was while drying in the sun that Billy decided to live here forever.  He turned off the world and turned on his instincts. There would be no need to explain, no need to listen, no need to move on just to avoid trouble. Trouble was the ring around this little Eden. Inside there was peace and solitude.  The earth turned, the sun traveled the open space above his head, and Billy dozed and daydreamed.
There was work to be done and Billy’s daydreaming was about this work.  First, he needed a way in get in and out without tearing himself up. He needed shelter.
He needed food.  One thing about the bum’s life he’d been living was that people kept tabs on you. You can’t show up for food out of nowhere.  Only the first time.  From then on somebody knows where you were this morning, and where you slept last night. You can’t be gone all day without questions.  If you’re out of
sight you must be drinking and if you’re drinking you can’t come to the Mission.  They’ll yank you right out
of line and call the cops if they smell booze.  If they don’t smell it then you get a personal interview with that night’s preacher and he knows you’re a sneaking drunk and have you heard about the work camp outside town?  “We’ll meet your every need and keep you working hard.  You’ll eat well, sleep like the dead, and get strong.  No way you’ll drink or find
drugs.  We’ll introduce you to Jesus.”  Sure, if Jesus is a shovel.
This was how Billy joined that next level of the homeless.  The homeless bum is still a part of society.  He sleeps in somebody’s shelter, eats somebody’s food; He goes from one place to another with a name somebody knows at each place.  He has
conversations that stay on a certain level of normality or else he gets pegged as a whacko and there’s a whole ‘nother mission for THAT kind.  No, Billy was going to have to become independent, one of
the invisible homeless people that disappear into the night- that materialize at times by day but have no corporeal presence to others. No more than a sheet of newspaper blowing down the street that no one stops to pick up and read or throw away. The trick is to be invisible in the midst of the city.

The Meadow, part 4
copyright by L. Burl Dunn

Billy began his first day of independence before sunrise.  He lay on his back and pushed out of paradise towards the noise of the freeway.  He washed up in the restroom of a fast food joint and then did
something he never thought he’d do: He saw no one looking and jumped into the dumpster behind the joint.
 Here was breakfast.  Overcooked potatoes, still warm.
 Last nights lettuce and tomatoes, clean once you got into the middle of the mess.  Lunch. Billy wrapped
everything up, listened for people, and, hearing no one, popped out of the dumpster, swung over the side, dropped to the ground and walked away a free man.  An unseen man. An independent man.
With that inhibition overcome, Billy turned his mind to shelter.  He needed a roof over his head and a bedroll. In the alley behind a strip mall was shelter - boxes, big and small from a shoe store.  The biggest boxes had held twenty or so pairs of shoes on the long trip from China. They were thick cardboard
and he took four of them.  Back at Paradise there was quite a struggle awaiting him. If the brush kept out
the unwanted it sure as hell could keep out four big boxes too.  It didn’t help that they were folded up.
Billy jammed them through, breaking some branches and bending others.  It took quite a while.  After lunching on lettuce and tomatoes he had an inspiration. The breaks he had made in the bushes became the start of a maze.  He broke only enough to enable him to twist and turn his way through until he was at the brink of exiting. From the outside there
was no change, still an impenetrable, prickly mass of tall bushes. But step in at just the right place and turn this way, sidestep here, twist there and a person
about six feet tall reached the inner sanctum unscathed. Billy had to memorize the route in and out it was so obscure.
And so began the drill: Don’t start outside without listening carefully; all the way out listen, look through the branches; detect any danger. If things
seemed right then, poof, out sauntered Billy.  On day two he sauntered out determined to try a grocery store dumpster. In it he found a broken 25-pound bag of flour and inspiration.  That night he made a paste with flour and water and rubbed it on the cardboard. It hardened like glue.

Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs Instigated and Agitated by Burl Dunn is available for download, it's on Spotify, XBox Music,,Rdio,iHeartRadio, Rumblefish

The Meadow, part 5
copyright by L. Burl Dunn

If all you had to do was walk and sit and think about simple things you might find yourself coming up with all sorts of ideas, and so did Billy.  He learned that no dumpster was useless. Tape and broken scissors in this one, gallons of empty paint cans in another. Empty?  Billy poured and dribbled patiently and left
that dumpster with a gallon of beige paint.  Kind of a marbled beige. He got an old grocery cart and continued collecting household items. Curtains. He’d need to make a window. A doormat. He’d need to make a door.
One day while lying in the sun the police helicopter flew over. Billy lay still until it was out of sight and then just freaked out!  Shit, I have to hide this stuff, he realized.  That was the beginning of construction within the bushes. While always leaving
a thick upper layer, Billy broke lower branches and twigs.  He fit his growing house underneath. Everything fit underneath.  The meadow appeared as
usual, bird’s-eye view, but Billy’s bungalow was flourishing underneath the inner ring of bushes.  The house was about three feet high.  The exterior, hardened by flour glue and bracing, was painted that marbled beige. Additions were taped on.  Little drainage ditches were dug around the outside to carry rainwater
away. From an overflowing donation bin for Goodwill came sheets and blankets and towels. And a TV.  You never know thought Billy.
Indeed you never know. The TV was a twelve-volt model and Billy understood the red and black wires and a week later and five visits to the alley behind the auto shop, bingo!  ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS provided nightly entertainment for Billy in his garden of Eden.
So, you get the idea. Billy found his way through the detritus of modern America.  He took what he needed
from the garbage of the workaday class and enjoyed what most of them were working for- retirement.  A calm, unhurried, reflective existence. I guess some
skeptical reader can wonder about all the details, but don’t think that just because I don’t bother to relate them that Billy didn’t work through them. Dead batteries?  With luck, a battery lasted for several nights. He constantly shuttled batteries in and out. Food?  Obviously you’ve never gone dumpster diving.
Bathroom?  A series of holes dug deep and filled.
Billy stayed out of the meadow during daylight.  He could be on the edge and get warmth and some sun.  At night he could dance and tumble unseen in the grass.
And dance and tumble he did. No joyful noise escaped to draw attention.  The freeway took care of that.  No one to listen to, no questions to answer, no bedtime hour, no alarm clock.  Life was unimaginably good and
getting better.

Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs Instigated and Agitated by Burl Dunn is available for download, it's on Spotify, XBox Music,,Rdio,iHeartRadio, Rumblefish.

The Meadow, part 6
copyright by L. Burl Dunn

Even a successful hobo needs some money now and again.
One day Billy passed a corner where several Hispanic men were gathered.  It was one of those home places that gets known as a place to find cheap labor for a day and Billy started hanging out,too. He got lucky just often enough to keep a bit of cash in his pocket. With the cash came a huge round of home improvement.
At the dollar store he bought a hatchet, a knife, a spoon, a fork, and some enamelware plates and bowels.
He also got some tin snips and one of those huge cans of peaches.  When the peaches were gone he cut into
the can and turned it into a stove. By burning twigs and dead leaves (at night, real hot, so the smoke wasn’t a problem) he could heat up a can of beans and make
instant coffee.  One day he got ten packets of seeds for a dollar and planted a garden. Billy was getting
pretty comfortable until he noticed his little garden was getting eaten. Must be rabbits, thought Billy and he set up snares.  Sure enough, rabbits.  The first
day he snared two.  One day he came home and there were three.  He set up four snares and got four.  Now what?  Turn them loose and hope they’d learned their
lesson?  Oh no, not Billy.  He learned to dispatch the rabbits into the afterlife with all the rapidity and skill of a kosher butcher.  Every night the little tin can stove was stoked and fired up for a couple of hours to boil rabbit.  When he had the money, which was usually, he added potatoes and tomatoes.  Now that
the rabbits were snared routinely, his little garden grew and squash and green beans and lettuce were
Billy was walking down the street with five dollars and change.  He was on top of the world.  Although not a smoker anymore, he picked up and finished a cigar
someone had thrown down, still practically whole.  His head in a rush of nicotine, he looked down and saw, unbelievably, a joint. No way, thought Billy. Way. A joint.  It had been thrown down in disgust by a young man who wasn’t getting high from it.  No wonder.
 It was mostly stems and seeds. 
Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs Instigated and Agitated by Burl Dunn is available for download, it's on Spotify, too.

The Meadow, part 7
copyright by L. Burl Dunn
The joint had several seeds rolled up.  It was the young man’s last ditch attempt
to get high from a bag that had been cleaned out long ago.  It was the disappointing remnant of some good
stuff though, and Billy planted the seeds.
He’d started the seeds later than was ideal, but marijuana has a strong will to live.  The plants took off. 
Billy soon developed a technique of training the plants to grow among the bushes.  He wove tender branches around the tough, thorny stems and carefully
kept the pot plant from ascending above the tops of the bushes surrounding his meadow.  When the buds came he pruned away most leaves.  He had pretty much nothing but buds growing and out of the three plants doing the best, only one was a male.
Can you imagine Billy’s late summer nights?  Full of rabbit stew, he watched TV.  Warm in his bedroll, he smoked a joint. Stoned out of his gourd, he danced
and rolled around his meadow, laughing and content.
In the morning he had coffee and watched the news. After a morning joint, he did what yoga he remembered, but his yoga was mostly intuitive stretching done lying down under the cover of the bushes, for Billy was never so stoned that he forgot to hide.
What is the essence of this life Billy had?  Is it criminal?  Since society defines criminality whether we accept it or not, yes, Billy’s life was criminal.
He was smoking pot.  Big time crime, that, huh?  He was living on a chunk of God’s green earth without buying it or paying rent. He wasn’t giving money to anyone for his right to exist on God’s earth.  Of
course, this too is a crime.  The crime the Indians committed for century after century until the Europeans cured them of that. The crime still committed by the homeless of the world less fortunate than Billy.
Society has tried so hard to arrest the pot smokers. Could being homeless be the next big crime? The homeless walk by every day and keep right on going. We choose not to see them I guess. God bless that. And that, of course, was why Billy thrived.
What is the essence of Billy’s life?  It is independence. He answers to no man. He meets his needs from the excess of this rich country. Like the Zen saying, he eats when hungry and sleeps when tired.
I know people who have it made and yet worry, worry, worry, all the time.  Billy does not worry.  Billy savors.  Most people would call him a loser, but he’s
got it made- made in the shade.

Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs Instigated and Agitated by Burl Dunn is available for download, it's on Spotify, too!

The Meadow, part 8
Copyright by L. Burl Dunn
Perhaps feeling too confident that he was indeed a free and separate entity from the society around him, Billy unknowingly developed a routine. His routine of
morning instant coffee, TV, and a joint were harmless enough, at least as long as his fire was made in the dark and the smoke was unseen. He was always careful
to be mindful when exiting through his labyrinth that he emerged smoothly just like he had been walking along in plain sight all the time.  But, he didn’t think about using the same dumpsters every day,
passing by the same stores every day at about the same time of day.  He had a favorite bench in the park.
And it was there that his life suddenly changed.
“Hi, I’m Maggie Brown.”
“Oh, hello.”
“Well, what’s your name?”
“Oh, it’s Billy,” he answered with a raspy frog in his
“Yes, Billy.”
“So I see you every day.”
That sinking feeling.  That paranoid flash you try to
ignore and so hide.  “Really?”
“Yes, really.  Don’t worry, I just wanted to talk to
you, but hey, you smell goooood.”
“I smell good?”
“Oh come off it.  I smoke pot too, when I can get it.
I just wanted to ask you some stuff.  I didn’t know
you were a pothead.  I thought you were, like
homeless, like me.”
“You’re homeless?  You don’t look it.”
“Well, neither do you.  It takes some effort though,
huh?  I mean, I have to use public toilets and
sometimes get almost naked in there at the sink to
stay clean and stuff.  I mean I have a job, but I
can’t exactly take a sponge bath in the work toilet.
I didn’t mean to tell you all this.  I’m not coming on
to you or anything.”
“Well, I’m sorry.  I don’t have a joint on me or
anything.  I ran into a friend earlier.  He had it.”
“I didn’t come over for a joint either, but I’d …
well, anyway, listen… I don’t get enough to eat.  I
have to spend too much on clothes and gas.  I live in
my car.  How do you do it?  Can you tell me?  You
know, give me some tips?  I mean, are you homeless?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”
“No, it’s okay.  I mean, I sorta have a home, but I
dumpster dive.”
“So, I guess I need to do that.  I just haven’t had
the nerve.  Have you ever been caught?”
“No.  I’m pretty careful.  I look around.  I walk
around and when I think it’s cool I jump right up and
all the way in right away.  Don’t stand outside and
pick around in it or someone might see you.  Most
people don’t care though.”
“I shouldn’t care either, but I’m embarrassed.  I’m
“No, that’s okay.  I’m just over being embarrassed.
It’s nobody’s business.  It’s garbage.  If I don’t get
it it’s going to just rot. ”
“Isn’t it already rotten, sort of?”
“Nah.  You know like how they mark down milk when it’s
getting near the end date?  And then the end date gets
there and they throw it out, but it didn’t go bad just
because it’s tomorrow instead of yesterday.”
“I like that- ‘Tomorrow instead of yesterday.’ That sounds
like a song.”
“Yeah, huh?  Well, anyway, it will go bad right away
if it’s not refrigerated.  So, if you find milk you
just drink all you can.  I mean if you find it quick before it spoils in the dumpster.”
“I think I’d make cottage cheese from it and it’d probably stay good for a few days.”
“How do you make cottage cheese?”
“Well, you just heat the milk and add a little lemon juice and it curdles.  If you have cheesecloth you strain it. I used to give the whey to my dog, but now I’d drink it myself.”
“Get outta here.”
“Eating your curds and whey.  Now that sounds like a nursery rhyme.”
“Yeah, huh?”
“So the curds are the lumps?”
“What’s whey?”
“Whey do you mean?” she started.
“Oh, very punny,” continued Billy.
“Whey over ‘dere.”
“Whey over where?”
“Some whey over the rainbow.”
“Curds are blue.”
“No Kurds are brown, I think, like most Iraqis.”
Billy just lost it.  He didn’t stop laughing for a full minute, about a minute longer than he’d laughed in front of another person for years.
Whoa, Billy’s mind flashed to awareness.  Watch it.
Close up.  Dive, dive…. aooooooga.  “Seriously, what’s
“Oh.  It’s the liquid from the milk that didn’t turn into cheese.”
“Cool.  Next time I find milk I’m making curds and whey.”
“I wish I could cook.”
“Hey, you can.  So you live in your car, right?  You need a backpackers stove.  You know what, I need one too. Let’s go look at some.”
“Oh, yeah, there’s that camping store right over there.  I never thought of a backpacking stove.  I can’t believe it.”
“You just never went camping probably so you never thought of it.”
“No, I never went camping until I started living in my car.”

The Meadow, part 9
copyright by L. Burl Dunn

Maggie and Billy strolled together through the store. Billy started seriously thinking about making enough
money for a down sleeping bag. He had enough for a backpacker’s stove and, he too, couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to him before.  They discussed the merits of this one and that one and settled on a model that would burn anything- kerosene, gasoline, white gas- probably it’d run on used french fry oil too, thought Billy only half as a joke. He kept the joke
to himself, though. He’d almost let this woman in on his secret life, probably the most stupid thing he’d done since leaving the mission life behind.
Secretiveness came naturally to Billy, and he’d developed it highly since living amongst strangers in the missions. Anyway, Billy bought his stove, but Maggie needed to wait until payday.
“Well, I guess maybe I’ll see you around,” said Maggie
as they left the store.
“It was really fun.  I haven’t actually had fun like this in a while.”
“Me neither.”  Billy’s mind flashed again to awareness- you won’t see her again if you don’t speak up.  Jesus, what’s it gonna be, dude… mind?  Are you telling me to be careful or reckless? What should I
say?  But in this short pause, Maggie decided that any more hanging around would be forward and so, in that ancient rite of both sexes wanting to connect and yet
fearing to be rejected, they parted with no plan to meet up again.
It’s morning and Billy can sleep in. The new stove means no smoke to hide in the darkness. This new freedom means that Billy doesn’t have to wonder if the sky is growing a bit lighter or if it’s still just the all-night glow of the city.  He lies on his back looking at the hazy grayish hue of the sky. A crescent moon whispers to Billy that, yes,it is near
dawn.  It is getting a bit lighter. Venus and the moon.  The forgotten drone of the freeway.  A few little birds skitter in the bushes. The memory of Maggie’s laugh. Whey over dere. Billy smiles and for the first time his little paradise seems wanting. Billy is wanting, lacking.  The gray fades into blue.
The little brown birds have the most amazing fluffy red breasts. The leaves of the bushes are silver, then green and greener. Enough of this, Billy mutters
inwardly, meaning his thoughts, not the lovely dawning of a new world.
Billy turns on the morning news, fires up his new stove.  Today, after a couple cups he doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t want to get high.  Not really thinking what he wants, he heads out early. All day he looks around without consciously realizing he’s looking for Maggie.
He finds five gallons of milk in a dumpster and carries four home.  Then he’s back at the same store buying a little lemon juice in one of those plastic
Outside and guess who’s crawling out of the dumpster with that other gallon of milk?
“Hey, Maggie.”
“God, you scared me.”
“Sorry.  Pretty good technique there.  You got out
really fast.  Then you turned toward your car without acting funny.  That’s the way you do it.”
“Milk for nothin’ and the whey is free,” sings Maggie.
“I’d say the whey is clear for cottage cheese,” Billy punned holding up the plastic lemon.
“Everything but the cottage.  Oh, and a stove.”  She looked at him.  He knew what she was thinking.
“Listen.  Maggie.  You’ll keep a secret, right?”
“I don’t have anything else to keep.”
“Okay.  Listen.  I’ve got a place.”
“You told me.”
“No I mean I have a place that nobody knows about.  I
was homeless, then I found this place and I just live there and nobody knows.”
“You mean like an abandoned house?  That’s seems dangerous.”
“No. I mean like a little meadow near the freeway.
It’s hidden by bushes and nobody knows about it but me. I have a camp there. Like a hobo camp.”
Maggie’s eyes got big, then mirthful, then serious.
“So,” Billy hesitated, “You want to see it?  You want to make cottage cheese there?  I’ve got four gallons of milk.”
“I love a rich man.”
Billy smiled.  Somehow he felt full and hungry at the same time.  “Well, here’s the thing. Do you mind leaving your car here?”
“No, I’ll park over there and leave it.”
“Okay, then we’ll walk.  When we get there, no fooling, you follow me into the bushes right away. Just walk right in behind me.  Don’t look around or hesitate or anything.  Really.”
“Okay.  I get it.”
After you step in you have to turn like I do for your next step. Just follow me. Two steps in and it’s
like you disappeared. Then you can relax as we work the rest of the way in.  After two steps we’ll slow down. If you move like I do you won’t get scratched up because I’ve broken the twigs and branches that are in the way, but there’s only just enough room if you’re careful. I mean, I’ve got it memorized, but you go slow after those first two steps or you’ll
think you’re lost in the jungle.”
“This is so wild.  Are you kidding me?”
“This is sooo wild.”
“We can get high.”
“Oh my God.”
And so they walked off together.  A part of Maggie thought it all might turn out to be a joke, but as they walked up to a huge thicket she knew it was true.
She felt light-headed, like she was dreaming as she followed Billy into the thicket.  Their twisting and turning seemed like a dance, a perfect dance and he a perfect partner leading her into romantic twirls and dips that she instinctively followed. And then they
were at the edge of Billy’s house. She didn’t know what she was looking at. It was just over three feet high and over that the branches and twigs grew
undisturbed by the pruning that had been required.  By now it had expanded to two rooms though you couldn’t tell from looking down on it. 
“That’s home,” said Billy.
Speechless, Maggie stepped in front of the place.  She went one step into the meadow before Billy took hold of her arm.
“Don’t go out there in the daylight.”
“Why not?”
“Planes, helicopters.”
“So we’d just look like ants and anyway why should anybody care or even think anything?”
“This is a place that has been forgotten. Nobody thinks about it and that’s why I can live here. No chance can be taken that people notice this spot. I don’t think it registers on people’s minds.  You know
how we go around with our eyes open all the time, but we don’t think about most things unless there’s a reason. This place is what’s called hidden in plain sight.”
“Yeah, I see.”
“I go out there at night.  We can go out later.”
“Okay, show me the inside of your place.”
They crawled in.  There wasn’t much to see besides the bedding, the stove and cooking stuff, the TV and the battery, but the TV really blew her away.  They listened and watched as they heated the milk and Maggie showed him how to make cottage cheese. Then they sat down on the bedding, yes I’m going to say it - like a tuffet- and they ate their curds and whey. 
“See over there?” Billy asked.
“Do you see it?”
“What?  Oh, my God it’s pot!”
“Pretty well hidden, huh?”
“I’ll say.”
Billy twisted one up and they smoked.  Then it was
dark enough to go out. Maggie took Billy’s hand as they looked up at the few stars bright enough to be seen in the city. Then easily and naturally enough
 they kissed. They went inside. They made love.

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Texas Socialist Infiltration Dance Songs Instigated and Agitated by Burl Dunn is available for download, it's on Spotify, too!

The Meadow, part 10
For Billy it was nothing less than an apocalypse.  He had been a pretty shy boy and then a rather troubled man. He’d always tried to be invisible and that meant being alone.  I mean, even in his school days, without knowing it, he tried to be invisible.  And a kid who tries can do that in school.  To be invisible to a
teacher you just need to pass, never raise your hand, but listen and be able to answer most questions when she thinks to call on you. Don’t make trouble, don’t
talk, always have a book to read or do homework during free time.  To be invisible to other students you just
need to keep your head down, but if you catch someone’s eye just smile and move on. You need at least one friend and Billy usually had that one friend and just one.  They were always some boy who was
really glad to have a friend.  To other students Billy’s friends were losers, but Billy was more just a blank, an unknown.  Before the end of high school his silence and solitude began to intrigue some girls, and not just losers.  To them Billy had an aura of mystery that was cool and a couple of girls seduced him, but
that kind of thing doesn’t happen in the world of adults.  After high school, Billy really perfected invisibility.  He worked at this and that, always low-paying jobs that had strict foremen who had to
make most people work, but good old Billy just kept his head down and stayed busy.
Billy would have a hard time explaining how he got to the point of needing a rescue mission. How does it
happen to people? They lose jobs because of drink or drugs or other kinds of excess.  Some are crazy more or less. I mean people lose jobs through no fault of
their own, but it used to only be the troubled ones who found someday that there’s no place to turn, no one who’ll take them in.  Billy, he just got to where everything seemed pointless and one day he didn’t go home.  He stuck out his thumb.  One thing lead to another.
Maggie became homeless after guess what? A string of bad boyfriends.  Her first bad boyfriend she was going to save from his bad self. Her last bad boyfriend she figured was just about the only type she could get. She knew he was bad, but she hung on. One night he kicked her ass and while she was at work took everything worth anything and left her with a pile of
bills.  If the car had been around the day he decided to leave he would have taken that too.
The two didn’t talk much about their past at first. It didn’t matter.  They had this magical place to share. They had Maggie’s income. And they had each other.  It was all enough.

The Meadow, part 11
Before long Maggie opened a bank account.  Even with a minimum wage job money can accumulate if you have no
expenses.  Billy continued his daily routine of dumpster-diving.  It took him time to get used to the idea of always having money in his pocket. If he
found potatoes and wished he had ketchup he could go buy ketchup.  Weird.  The biggest change in his routine was to give up rabbit snaring. Maggie couldn’t stomach that.
They began “home improvement projects.”  They bought a solar panel and it worked even in the half-shade of the bushes so they bought a new battery and Billy gave up the difficult battery shuttle he had carried on.
They added “additions” to the house until it was four rooms, each about the size of three washing machine
boxes. They had a thin feather bed and down sleeping bags.  Often, they had wine with dinner.  Billy began to feel uncomfortable with the luxury. He felt it was too much to be carrying in bags of store-bought stuff every day, so they cut back.  This just made the bank
account grow faster.
Billy cut another entry path into the bushes.  They quit walking together up to the meadow.  Maggie signed the car over to a coworker for two hundred dollars and
started riding the bus. Some weekends they never left home at all.  All these things added up to more security. They felt no prying eyes, no threat to their lives together.
They say every story must have a conflict. I suppose some readers are waiting for something bad to happen, but you know what?  Nothing bad has happened since
Billy found the meadow. All the bad for Billy and Maggie happened yesterday.  And this is their tomorrow. Some people, like some places, never get noticed.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Three from "Texas Dance Songs" lyrics and chords.

I was honored that this "blog" was one of my most viewed. As I put up the "top hits" before changing to a new format and plan, I hope you give these songs a listen. For free, they are on Pandora and Spotify. They can be previewed at iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and other download sites.

You can go to your favorite internet radio station or download or streaming site and search for "Burl Dunn" and find these songs. The are all published by CD Baby, so you pros out there know who to call. Adele, are you out there? T. Bone Burnett?

Dream On You Dream Come True
copyright by Burl Dunn

C Dm G
C     Dm       G G7
When you close your eyes to those starry skies
C         Dm       G G7
When you let go your thoughts and dreams press through
I’d give a fortune to be near
        G CF
To have you here..

C     Bflat       F
And if my mind were a net I’d catch your dreams like butterflies
G   Bflat
I’d study them well, but I wouldn’t tell
I’d just look and let ‘em fly away
                       G                                           C      CF
So you could dream them again some other day.

And if I find you’re dreamin’ of me
Dm                                GG7
Should I pretend not to see?
Or could I take your dream like a mold
             Dm                                 G
And be reshaped, one you could hold?
       F                                 C                    F                              C F
For years I’ve dreamed of you, so dream on you dream come true
F                   C          F                 C F
Yeah, dream on you dream come true
F         C          F                 C       FCFC

Dream on you dream come true…

I Never Waltzed With You           c by Burl Dunn
G          D                  G  G7          C                                    G  G7                      
I never waltzed with you               Never did the two-step, too
C                                                    G                   Em
I was too shy                                 You were too proud
        G       D                  G        CGEmGDG
So I never waltzed with you.

G          D                  G  G7          C                                    G  G7
I never waltzed with you               Never did the two-step, too
               C                                 G             Em
We went straight from high           To goodbye
   G       D                  G  G7
I never waltzed with you

   C                                          G
I wish we had waltzed across Texas
C                             D
Instead of Careless Love
   C                         G          Em
I wish I were deep in your heart
D                         G            transition notes G F# G# Achord
Instead of Faded Love.
Instrumental in key of A just as below
A                            E          A A7
Why did we never dance a jig?    
               D                         A A7
Why did we never shake a leg?
D                       A           F#m
We tap danced around romance   
               A             E          A
Why did we never dance a jig?

A         E                    A A7          D                                    A A7
I never waltzed with you               Never did the two-step, too
D                                                    A                   F#m
I was too shy                                 You were too proud
        A       E                  A
So I never waltzed with you.
  D                                           A
I wish we had waltzed across Texas
D                             E
Instead of Careless Love
   D                         A          F#m
I wish I were deep in your heart
E                         A A7           
Instead of Faded Love.
           D                         A         F#m
Yes, I wish I were deep in your heart
E                         A
Instead of Faded Love

In Our Dance c Burl Dunn

D  A  G   D  A
D               A   G                   D A
Who is this man waltzing with you?
D                     A            G                    D  A
Whose are these hands, so lucky, touching you
          Bm     A       Bm      A       Bm     A      G GaddF# A
In our dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, dance

Who is this woman, yesterday’s girl?

Whose is this magic around me twirls
                                                  Bm     A      G GaddF# A
In our dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, dance

A       G                           D
It’s so easy out here on the dance floor
     G                       A
As easy as one, two, three
G      D      A
One, Two, Three

A         D                  A
There’s no doubt who this night is for
           G        D              A
It’s for us- it’s leading  us toward
D        A
Music, laughter, and love
       G                     D            A
Our moon, our stars, swirling above
          Bm     A        Bm     A       Bm     A       G GaddF# A
Our dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, dance

There you go dance bands! Some new cover songs. My permission to play them in clubs. Copyright laws to apply for recording, use in films and videos, etc. You know what I mean. My publisher is CD Baby.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Songwriter and the Dog - complete short story w/song

Johnny told me, “So here's everything you need to know if you want to make it as a singer - songwriter: it's just as tough as making it as an ugly whore. There are better looking women out there who'll do it for free. That's where the competition starts. Most of the time you only find a niche with those who failed to score with the beautiful girl. Not all the time, though. There are some who want things they can't get from the beautiful girl. There are some who want to do things they wouldn't dare do to the beautiful girl.

“The next thing to know is that singer/songwriters are like gunslingers and only some, as Townes Van Zandt knew ‘wear their guns outside their pants for all the honest world to feel.’ These songwriters want to blow you away. OK, some are more like Mac the Knife. They want to cut you. You know, like in jazz - to cut someone is to play so much better that you slink away or fade away or, as you take your next break, pretend that you're not just a bloody stump with a horn.”

“What can destroy a shy songwriter with some good chops and good lyrics, and that’s how I see you Burl, is to see all those semi-successful no-talent bastards with attitude. You see, in the entertainment business, attitude is equal to talent. Talent does not rise to the top. Attitude with a dose of talent does. And the ones with attitude got it by some alchemy of nature/nurture that you didn't get. You sit there and watch a guy go from C to F to C to F, ad infinitum. You hear hackneyed vocal lines and you think, this is shit. Then you look around and the room is filled with rapt attention and dreamy eyes and you think, what the fuck, I could do that when I was 13! Sure you could, but you had a shy attitude - you were a loser then and you're a loser now. The girls go for the boys who exude dangerous, edgy attitude not the very nice, shy ones with heads full of sensitivity.” Man, Johnny could go on.

“Now there's young attitude and there's old attitude. Young attitude should be perfectly enacted. Old attitude - they cut you some slack because they know your past. They admire the road you traveled. Once you were tough and hot and you rocked the house, so now you can get away with just reminding them of that – or maybe you’re one of those special old men who still rock the house like you did when you were young!” He went on.

“Before continuing I want to make the distinction between the only two types of musicians who count. There's the ones who can play. They range from the soulful C, F, and G types to some who really have nice chops - some can hang in any jam; they know some sophisticated chords; they have a number of pleasant songs. Then there's the Motherfuckers. They are Django Reinhardt, Paco de Lucia, Jimi Hendrix. I'm not talking about the Motherfuckers here. They are a breed apart and I am not worthy.

“To me the funniest way to get cut is by lyrics. When I listen to singer/songwriters I rarely walk away with any lyrics stuck in my head. I mean even the good players who made me nod my head and tap my foot. I enjoyed them, but nothing stuck. I finally figured out why. It's because they were singing about themselves and how sensitive they are. Makes me want to puke.” Johnny threw his head back and moaned:

“I'm receptive to your needs
I'm conscious of your wants
I feel things so deeply
I need to get deep inside of youuuuuu.

That man can never understand you
He can never give you what you need
Only I have the love so true
That can make you become brand newwwww.

“To  me, the worst of the worst is the good looking chick with performance attitude and sensitive songs. And low-cut dresses that swirl as she plays, dresses that you can almost see through. She expects you to fall in love with her. She's used to it. Before you know it you've bought her a drink, tipped her tomorrow's lunch money, and then her boyfriend comes in. He's not jealous. He knows you're just another useful john who will never get to first base, but who'll probably buy him a drink to be sociable before you excuse yourself.

“Oh, I'm such a curmudgeon. I forgot the hippies, the tried and true enthusiast who is just happy to be there. They play from the heart. They are infectious; they leave you feeling good. If they are also a Motherfucker, they are sure a rare gem.”

 That's what Johnny wanted and wanted it desperately. He wanted to go back to the 60s when he knew God. When he trusted the world. When he took no offense. All the shit in the world could be dumped on his head and roll like water off a duck's back. He played on.

Johnny was like that in the 60s. He loved his guitar so much he played all day. The calluses on his left hand were so thick that his left hand fingers were a quarter inch longer than the right hand. Sitting on the edge of his bed wailing out a new song was as exciting to him as if he were at Carnegie Hall.

Right now, Johnny was back in Texas. Not the part he grew up in, that flat, dusty, windy Panhandle - the part that makes the wind blow in Oklahoma (because it sucks). No, he was down around Austin and San Antonio, a beautiful place to be - in the winter when it's not 103 in the shade with 90% humidity. East Texas has more side-of-the-road rest areas, rest stops, and picnic areas than you can shake a stick at. They are a reminder of the gracious Texas, a reminder of the time when a few tax dollars were spent with the comfort of families in mind. Johnny's type of family - the kind that packed a cooler with sandwiches and bought a watermelon from a roadside stand. Picnic areas with nice mowed grass, tables, a water spigot, and a toilet.

You could be poor as dirt and yet have a place to be. Having a place - Johnny took that for granted as a kid. His family home was small, but Daddy had it almost paid off. He could ride his bike all around the neighborhood - his neighborhood. There's something wrong with a country that refuses to spend a few bucks for the public. A country where you have to go into a store and ask for a key to the restroom and where you get a hard look if you haven't spent any money there. A country without public parks and plentiful water and restrooms is a poor country that doesn't give a damn about kids.

Johnny was moving from rest area to rest area in a hundred square mile area. Some nights he was parked by a sweet little river or creek. Tall trees with leaves rustling in the breeze. Most nights there was no one else there and the stars at night were big and bright. And it was all his because everyone else was afraid to spend the night outdoors. Americans have become full of fear, that's why. Empires create fear both abroad and at home.

Johnny was practicing his songs, getting ready for the open mics he intended to play in Austin. He was 65 years old and thought he still had one more chance to make it if only he could do on a stage what he could do alone. All he wanted was for an artist to pick one of his songs. He still had the feeling in his heart, the muscle memory in his fingers and wrist, but the mind was slipping. He had to run through his song list every day to keep those lyrics fresh in his mind. And then in the bar, waiting for his turn to sing two or three songs, he drank and smoked. The smoke helped keep his voice solid on the low notes. The drink all too often made him slip up. He might sing one line out of order, keeping the meaning but ending on the wrong word, ruining the rhyme. Then he'd think about that and hit the wrong chord. Jesus, why oh why did I pick music as my dream career, thought Johnny. I'm a loner by nature, I can't cut loose in front of an audience. I'm tongue-tied and not having fun. Hell, I should have been a writer.

Johnny woke up to the sound of a bulldozer, a front end loader, and a truck. He stuck his head out the van door and a friendly Hispanic man said, "Sorry Buddy, I've got to ask you to move. We're tearing this place up today." "How come?" "Well, Texas passed this new law that allows neighbors to ask the state to remove rest areas and picnic areas." "Isn't it state land? Why would they want this nice place torn down?" "Yeah, it is nice. I can remember stopping here with my family when I was a kid. But people are claiming that drug users meet up here. They're scared and the law lets them decide." "So taxpayer dollars built this nice little place and one guy can have it torn down just like that? Does he have to pay for it?" "Hell, no. The taxpayers pay. It's a raw deal, but it's the law. Gotta ask you to take off so we can get to work."
So Johnny drove off to Sweet San Antone.
Sheep Springs, New Mexico is a bump in the crossroads. Westward are the Chuska Mountains of Navajo land, East is Chaco Canyon, an important Anasazi ruin; it's north to Colorado and south to Gallup, New Mexico (where everyone is a minority). Navajos spread out on the land so you can't see many hogans or houses from Sheep Springs, but they are out there. And each spread has dogs and the dogs have puppies.

Sheep Springs is mainly a convenience store with gas and some storage units. On weekends a flea market springs up around the parking lot and across the road. If there are a more enterprising people than the Navajo I've never seen them. All across the reservation there are Grandmas getting up at 4 and even 3 a.m. to make breakfast burritos to sell to folks on their way to work. They make the thick tortillas by hand. On weekends they set up little propane stoves and make fry bread, mutton stew, and Navajo Tacos fresh on the spot. Johnny kept track of what he called the Navajo fast food inflation index. His first mutton stew 10 years ago was three dollars. You just say mutton stew when you order. It's assumed that a big hot piece of frybread and a cup of coffee are part of the order. The last time it was five dollars. Inflation.

A pack of dogs was running around the flea market this winter. Every one was a female with the tits of a mother. Everyone had had a cute litter of puppies and every one was abandoned after that. It happens even in wealthy areas. This pack was a very cooperative little band. Winter is cold in Sheep Springs and during the long nights they huddled tightly together, pushing into each other for body heat. And every now and again a dog would find her way into the middle of the warm mass. Ahhh, blessed heat. There was no fighting; fighting was a waste of energy and it took you away from the warm mass. During the day the dogs begged for food at the flea market (bringing their own contribution of fleas) and jumped in and out of trash cans. So they were very friendly, both with each other and with people. As a cooperative mass they survived the cold and as friendly individuals they charmed food from hungry humans.

The dogs didn't know it, but plans were in the works to hunt them down. A little boy had been killed by a pack of wild dogs near Gallup. Animal Control was planning on bringing the trucks and a group of men with guns was planning on mopping up after that.

One particular dog didn't know it but a guitar player named Johnny was just now crossing the state line from Texas in an old Chevy van. He'd laid around and played around San Antonio for a week playing open mics at night then sleeping in picnic areas outside of town. And he was beginning to be noticed – and I don’t mean as a musician.

Johnny tried to spread out his nightly locations, but he knew the cops had his number. It's legal to spend less than 24 hours in one spot, but the problem for Johnny was driving sober to those spots. Alcoholism is a job hazard for musicians and in the U.S. the legal limit is so damn low. Hell, Johnny with one beer on an empty stomach was over the limit. He was ready for a break from the booze and the city so he was off to the Four Corners, an area about as vast as Alaska and almost as thinly populated. He had a few acres of cheap land with a funky cabin. And he had a sweet little yeller hound with the softest tongue in the world waiting to be saved.

Johnny pulled into Sheep Springs because he saw a frybread stand. As he got out about seven dogs came up, barking and romping in a friendly way. He was handed his frybread, the most greasy one he’d ever had. The bread was so hot that the excess lard pooled up on it without congealing. One little dog had the nerve to come close to Johnny. She was, I guess, a medium-sized dog, but on the small side of medium and she reminded Johnny of Old Yeller, a dog in a Disney movie he’d loved in his youth.
He held out a piece of the bread and she took it daintily, but wolfed it right down. Johnny said to her, “I might just come back for you.”

You see, Johnny was still in mourning for his last dog – also an abandoned rez dog. He felt a bit like a man might feel who’d lost his loving wife less than a year ago. It didn’t feel right to bring a new love into his life yet. Edy had been his best dog companion ever. Instead of telling you, let me put in this song he’d written about her.

Good Dog A’Mighty      c BurlDunn
From the CD Texas Dance Songs available at all download sites
           G          G7                          C                               A
I had a dog one time, I mean to tell you the best of her line
                 G    Em                          A       DD7
That sweet girl loved me to the end
             G                              G7          C                           A
When it got so she could hardly move her tail still wagged for me
                           G                         D          GCGD
You don’t have to tell me how to treat my best friend.
   G                      G7     C                   A
I got down on my knees, held her to my chest
                 G                 Em         A                        D           D7
She gave a long, relaxing sigh and surrendered to her death
           G                             G7             C           A
At that moment the love that flowed was pure and blessed
                           G                         D          G            CGD
You don’t have to tell me how to treat my best friend.

   C                  G          C              G
I howled at the moon, I growled at strangers
       Em                        A                               D          D7
The pal I’d lost was ever ready for laughter and dangers
             C           G           Em                     A
I’d give six more years for each one she gave me
                           G                         D          G            CGD
You don’t have to tell me how to treat my best friend.

Em                  C                 G                 Em
Every dog I’ve had has been all a dog can be
C                  A                       D                       D7
God help me be the man those dogs have seen in me.

            G             G7     C             A
I had a dream last night, seemed so real
                                 G             Em     A            DD7
We were walking on a ridge that was so high
           G            G7           C                         A
Lord I slipped, I fell, I was falling straight into hell
                    G                     D                           G    CGD
But my good dog dug in, she did not let me die.
G                     G7      C                            A
I landed on my knees, she jumped up on my chest
                 G           Em                  A        DD7
Licked my face and gave a great big grin
                             G                              G7
She said, “You can stumble, but you can’t fall,
           C                       A                               G                   D
Not as long as I give my all. You didn’t have to train me to be your best
G                CGD

    C                  G          C              G
“I howled at the moon, I growled at strangers,
                    Em                    A                              D           D7
You were the pal I loved, ever ready for laughter and dangers
                 C           G           Em                      A
I gave you six more years for each one you gave me
                                  G                           D             C
And you didn’t have to train me to be your best friend.”

                                       G                  D          C
No, and you don’t have to tell me who is my best friend

No, no, it’s my good dog a’mighty
 G                D           G           CGDG

Don’t tell me she’s my best friend.

Johnny pulled out onto the highway and that pack of dogs followed him, nipping at his tires and barking in a friendly way. The yeller hound was romping along, too, and Johnny thought, “She’s just doing that because she has to be part of the pack to survive. I couldn’t stand it if she were run over.” He did a U-turn. Johnny asked around the flea market, “Are these dogs strays? Do you think they belong to anyone?” Everyone answered that, oh yeah, no doubt, they are all strays, so Johnny went into the convenience store, bought a can of dog food, opened it and then picked up Ella Frybread from Sheep Springs, New Mexico, put her in the van and took her into his life. He knew he was saving her life. He didn’t know she was also saving his.
Ella worked every bit of meat out of that can as Johnny drove along. Soon he shortened her name to Ely – pronounced LLE – he had her “fixed” and wormed and deloused.
Ely leaned into Johnny hard as he drove along. Both vehicles he drove had manual transmissions and it required a great deal of effort to push against her when he needed to shift gears. I don’t mean to push her away; I mean just to get hold of the shifter and make the motion. It was funny at first. Ely would just sit leaning her entire weight against Johnny, looking forward at the road with a calm look on her face, like saying, Yeah, it’s just me and my man heading down the road. Several times in towns Johnny would see someone in a facing car laugh as they went by and he realized that Ely looked like some girl pressing against her boyfriend as they drove down the road.

While on the smallish side, Ely became deceptively heavy. Johnny took to teasing her, calling her a “dog muscle.” One solid mass of muscle (with the softest tongue in the world).
The folks who abandoned her must not have needed a sheep dog, because most sheep-herding dogs on the rez were medium size hound dogs. Ely would have been one faithful hard-working dog, thought Johnny.

Unbeknownst to him, she was working. She was working on Johnny. Making him move more because he loved to let her go off leash in the country and watch her playful running around. Making him laugh like a fool at her antics. Teaching him to love again because Johnny was getting bitter about life and music, politics and people in general. I think the feeling of love is essential and it doesn’t have to be love of God or love of mankind or love of a human even. For some of us as we get older, especially those of us without enough money to keep our old cars going and buy good food, the world is a loveless place. We have one entire political party dedicated to the principle that people, even children (once they are born), don’t deserve health care unless their mommies and daddies make enough money to buy it. A political party that would deny food stamps to the poor even though food stamps are necessary for the health of the families of our soldiers – soldiers and military being now objects of worship – “heros” and “support our troops” – but we don’t support them with a living wage or meet their needs when they return damaged by wars fought for corporate greed.

Then we have another political party too indebted to the real power-base of America to heed to voices of the majority of Americans. Too busy justifying the need for more spies, more private prisons, more bombs, more corporate welfare so our jobs can be outsourced overseas. A corporate media that guides us towards empire; the empire breaking the backs of the poor and middle class who pay for it.

No, it’s pretty true, as Dylan sang, “Everything is broken.” But not real love. That’s not broken. Not the love of a good dog or a good man or a good woman. Johnny loved Ely and Ely gave Johnny six more years of life than he had been destined for. Just that moving and loving and thinking of the needs of another being gave him six more years.

But one day, Johnny just kind of sank to the ground inside his isolated cabin. He was awake and aware, but he couldn’t move much; certainly he couldn’t get up. And there was no one around to help him up. But Ely was there. And as Johnny faded away his last sensations of life on earth were simple yet as full of love and as powerful as God could offer: he heard little whimpering sounds right in his ear and felt his face being licked by the softest tongue in the world.