Paddle to paddle, p.1

Paddle to Paddle, page 1


Paddle to Paddle

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Paddle to Paddle

  Paddle to Paddle

  Lois Chapin

  Nightingale Rose Publications

  Yorba Linda 2019


  I wish to thank all those who were instrumental in making this book of poetry happen, including The Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective and Jack Grapes, as well as Chiwan Choi, Baz Here, Bambi Here, Dave Barton, Laura Border, my Imua ohana, my sweetheart, Mike, and our four kids.


  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. In order to maintain their anonymity in some instances the author has changed the names of individuals and places, the author may also have changed some identifying characteristics and details such as physical properties, occupations and places of residence.

  Nightingale Rose Publications

  16960 E. Bastanchury Rd.

  Yorba Linda, CA 92886

  © 2019 Nightingale Rose Publications

  All rights reserved

  ISBN 13: 978-1-889755-10-6

  ISBN 10: 1-88975-01-9

  Library of Congress Catalogue: TX 8-696-1521

  If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

  –William H. McRaven

  Dedicated to those who found a way out.

  Proverbs 29:15

  Seems like Jesus’ mom

  was cool.

  Encouraged him to argue,

  and disagree,

  let him hang out

  with older friends,

  and disappear for days

  at a time,

  allowed him to live at home

  through his twenties

  and make mind-altering substances.

  She even believed

  everything he said,

  and didn’t believe

  an unpaddled child

  disgraces his mother.

  If only Mary

  had written

  Child Guidance,

  and not Ellen,

  the cult leader.


  “You’re so heavy!”

  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you.

  I’m trying not to move in my wooden rocking chair

  with the cut-out heart

  and two red bird stencils.

  I guess they’re supposed to be nightingales.

  That’s your name now too.

  Daddy put you in my arms.

  You’re lying on my lap,

  your head on my arm.

  He told me to be careful

  not to drop you.

  You’re a lot bigger than I thought.

  Your blanket is so soft.


  that’s your pacifier on the floor

  by my foot.

  Mommy left for a long time

  to get you out of her stomach.

  She was sick.

  She almost died.

  She had toxemia.

  It’s from not eating good

  when growing a baby.

  Sorry you got sick too.

  Daddy said you were born blue

  with a rope or something wrapped

  around your neck,


  You had to stay in the hospital

  after Mommy came home

  to make you well. I’m glad

  you’re okay. I hope

  you don’t have to go back

  too much more. Maybe Mommy

  will be nicer since

  you’re here.

  In the mornings before Daddy

  goes to work at the lab he eats

  boiled potatoes with salt.

  I ask for a bite,

  but he says I need a better breakfast

  and makes me eat Ruskets.

  I hope he doesn’t get sick

  from eating cold potatoes.

  Great grandma Mimi played

  with me

  while I’ve been waiting

  for you. She takes me

  for walks in my stroller with Baby Doll

  by the canal.

  Baby Doll is a lot lighter than you.

  Her eyes open

  and close

  and are blue

  like yours.

  I’ve never seen real blue eyes before.

  “Your eyes are so blue!”

  When you talk,

  I’ll teach you stuff.

  Mommy’ll want you

  to call her “Mummy.”

  That’s what Moses’ pharaoh was called,

  so I call

  her, “Mamma.”

  When you’re bigger you can go outside

  with me

  when she gets mad and makes me

  leave the house.

  We’ll catch snails. I’m good

  at catching them

  in the front yard so Mommy

  can rest.

  I’ll show you how

  to put them in empty peanut butter jars.

  Boys are supposed

  to like that stuff.

  Your hands are so tiny. You grip my finger

  so strong!

  There’s no one to play with

  when Daddy’s at work.

  I can’t wait ‘til you’re bigger

  and can play.

  Click! Poof!

  That’s Daddy,

  he takes

  pictures of everything.

  Those flash bulbs

  won’t hurt you, you just see white dots

  for a while.

  He goes to school at night and works

  at the hospital in the daytime.

  He drives

  the car.

  We live up on a big hill.

  Mommy doesn’t

  drive so we stay up here

  and take naps. Looks like you like sleeping,


  that’s good.

  Sometimes they fight

  real loud.

  I don’t know

  about what.

  But when they ask you which one

  is right, it’s best

  not to answer.

  She’ll get mad at you

  no matter which side

  you take.

  She has some stickers

  of little children

  of the world,

  she sings

  a song about them too.


  you lick the back and stick them

  on paper.

  But don’t touch them unless

  she gives them to you.

  She hits just like she’s cleaning

  a carpet.

  “Can I show him the pollywogs

  in the canal?”

  I guess everything is

  after you get bigger.

  “Can I feed him

  so he gets bigger



  Only one relative from either side

  ever left us anything

  in a will.

  A conman and a drug dealer,

  well, he ran bootleg

  as a kid after his family lived in a box car,

  he graduated up to selling the ha
rd stuff.

  Anyway, when colon cancer killed

  my grandfather at the VA

  he left my mom enough

  ill-earned green

  to add on to the most important

  room of the house,

  the study.

  Books from carpet to ceiling

  and two desks pressed into our den.

  A secret portal waited

  under my father’s desk.

  I pulled the chair back in

  after I hid there.

  The wood smell ticked my nose;

  I had to be careful not to bump

  my head

  on the drawer glides.

  But the best was

  the safe.

  The smaller safe of course, the one

  we were supposed to show robbers

  my mother said

  if we were held at gun point

  in a home invasion.

  The closet hid the big safe.

  Heaven was where

  we were supposed to store up treasure,

  I guess ours waited in the big safe

  for Brinks to get

  it up there.

  I spun the notched knob of the safe

  with my fingers.

  Clunk, clunk the tumblers clunk


  as I turned the cylinder over

  the white painted lines

  between 5 and 10

  and back over 30 and 40.

  A bandana robber

  from the wild west took

  control of my hand.

  My horse, tethered outside the bank, stomped

  waiting for saddle bags

  filled with gold nuggets.

  Great gold nuggets

  like sheep brains

  with knotty cortexes

  gold nuggets that gleamed in the sun. Prospectors believed

  this bank was safe, Ha!

  A car backfires

  on the freeway. The sheriff shoots

  my lookout in the front of the bank

  blocking my escape. I need to drag

  these overfilled saddlebags.

  The wood plank floor boards smell

  of varnish.

  An Indian penny winks

  up at me through the dust.

  My hearts beats tom toms

  in my ears.

  The 91 freeway always has traffic.

  I hear Slippered Feet, the deputy


  down the hall, it’s now

  or never.

  I dart for cover under

  my mother’s desk. The sound of papers


  threatens to give me away.

  Pogo, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry

  comic books sprawl

  over buck-tooth Mad magazine covers, and shiny

  Playgirl Centerfolds

  tumble from the piles stacked

  to the pine drawer gliders.

  There’s no room to squeeze

  against the pillars of newsprint

  with my saddle bags.

  The silver tip of a fountain pen impales

  the shag carpet.

  I’ll never make it to my loyal appaloosa.

  She’s pawing the ground. Her whinnies urge

  me on. She’ll gallop

  me away from this corrupt

  sheriff town out to the freedom

  of the desert.

  It’s not a mirage.

  These gold nuggets will buy me

  all I need.

  Cacti hold survival water.

  “Move over,” my brother says.

  “This is my spot!”

  I give him

  a shoulder shove.

  It’s too tight for both of us

  and wrinkled magazines tear in our scuffle.


  he’s after my gold

  or wants to escape

  on my horse.

  Another gun shot.

  I’m hit.

  “Take the bags,” I say

  and I clutch my chest.

  Blood spurts.

  I look to see

  if it is separated. Separated blood means

  you’re dead.

  “What bags?” he asks.

  “The ones with the gold nuggets,

  like sheep brains.”

  I leave him to read the forbidden cache of comics

  and crawl wounded

  back under my father’s desk.

  The knob clicks

  as I turn it.

  The door still won’t open. I spin

  it faster, it’s my only chance

  for escape.

  Safety, and my outlaw grandfather

  who I don’t know,

  lie on the other side.

  I just need to guess

  the right



  I poke the fishhook through the pink fish egg.


  It’s like giant caviar.

  Not that I’d eat caviar.

  My brother and I are being raised

  vegetarians. like Daddy.

  She’s a carnivore.

  We are fishing for her.

  The planks of the pier are rough

  under my bare feet.

  The water ripples a clear blue.

  I pull up my rod

  and thump the red and white float

  with my finger.

  It’s tied above the round grey weight.

  Another vacation.

  We left the house at two in the morning,

  rolled onto the freeway after hours

  of her smacking us and threatening

  we wouldn’t go at all, while we packed

  the camper and thirteen-foot trailer.


  of course,

  as all vacations,

  was going to be





  I hang my pink fish egg over the water.

  Daddy’s shown me how to press

  the button on my rod and release it after

  I cast out.

  “Poor Mummy” is resting in the trailer

  drawing cartoons.

  I push the button and swing

  the rod

  and all its decorations

  over my shoulder.

  I like how it bends

  when I swing it. I fling it back

  over the water and lift my finger

  from the button.


  I’m confused.

  The line doesn’t hit

  the water.

  There’s tension on the line. Tug, tug.

  Where’s my fish egg? Tug, tug, tug.

  I spin around.

  My little brother’s hands

  hide his face. I want to drop

  my fishing pole.

  I’ll be in trouble for not putting my rod


  I try to wind the crank to bring the line in.

  He screams

  more. I drop

  the pole and line

  on to the planks

  of the pier.

  The sky is Utah blue and trees glisten

  in the summer breeze.

  The lake is empty,

  all ours.

  This is paradise. She’s in

  the trailer laughing

  about her secret messages<
br />
  and we’re somewhere

  other than, “in your own back yard.”

  There’s only the two of us

  to play


  There only ever is.

  But we dig holes

  to China

  and set up Matchbox car

  cities in the dirt.

  We even have our own mulberry tree

  to climb.

  But fishing is so much more important

  than digging to meet

  Chinese children.

  Our Uncle is a real fisherman

  has his own boat, “The Lady.”

  He brought me a swordfish once

  and cut off the sword

  for me to play with.

  When we visit great grandma Mimi,

  his bedroom has big tanks with loud bubblers

  for the fish he catches.

  My mother says

  he’s not saved, so fishing must be

  a dangerous job.

  I kneel beside my crying brother,

  my red and white float bounces

  on his jacket

  as he sobs.

  I follow the line up to the pink fish egg

  at the edge of his eye.

  My hook is threaded

  through his eye lid.

  A trickle of blood runs

  from the exit point.

  Red skin is torn

  at the entry point.

  He rocks on the wooden dock.

  Our dad flips open

  a blade from his Swiss Army knife.

  In one swipe he frees

  my brother’s eye from the line

  to my rod.

  But the hook is still imbedded

  in his eyelid.

  My heart pounds.

  His cries cut through the crisp

  morning air. His fishing pole with hook

  pushed into the cork handle,

  lies beside him.

  My father picks him up

  and carries him

  to the camper.

  I know what our mother is going

  to say.

  He can’t be “accident prone,”




  My pole.

  My hook.

  My pink fish egg.



  They take him to another hospital.

  This stay is short.

  No Gamma Goblin shots,

  no ICU,

  no Staph infection,

  no Thrush.

  In a clip of metal

  and a couple stitches

  he’s released.

  I show him how to poke his hook

  through a bright pink egg.


  The beige paint bubbled and chipped on the bar

  holding the forest green naugahyde in place.

  The kids on the short route got the new bus.

  I didn’t care, my best friend was on this bus.

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