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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Walking With Jackie the Ripper

Thursday, January 29, 2004

When Jackie and I walk, especially now that we are back in the land of my childhood, I recall deep discussions of a supernatural nature held between me and my paternal grandmother, Mama Cash. She did most of the talking. I just listened and got scared.

Often she felt she had been "warned in a dream" of bad things to come, and these dreams of hers did not have to be of a nightmare quality, either. Indeed, no! Some of them were really pleasant, such as visions of a boat trip or fantasies of picnicking around the beautiful springs which were so abundant in our part of the world. It was her firm belief that water meant trouble. (She couldn't swim a lick.)

When I was young, I spent a lot of time with Mama Cash, and some mornings when she made me get up to eat breakfast (which I hated to do because I have never been a breakfast person, plus I didn't want to get out of bed at all when I was a kid, but she insisted on early rising) she would relate what her slumbers of the previous night had revealed. Slumped over the faded oilcloth-covered table and eyeing with deep aversion the cold fried egg which it was my lot in life to eat each and every morning when I stayed with her, I dreaded these early revelations more than a little. Not a good way to start the day.

"Well," she reported one morning, "I want you to be careful at school today. I dreamed about calm, smooth water last night and that's a sure sign of trouble ahead."

Being no fool, I kept silent. The end of school was nearing, and several tests for which I had not studied were scheduled for that day. Since I had been privy to the accuracy of a few of her nighttime enlightenments, I deemed it not prudent to tempt fate by scorning her advice. Also, several of my classmates had planned an end of school swimming party, and certainly we did not want to cancel due to bad weather.

Well, I passed all the tests but not by much. I didn't worry, knowing full well that I was not slated to give the valedictory address.

We had a wonderful party. The only cloud on the horizon was a small blister I had managed to raise on the palm of my hand, quite close to my middle finger. The problem was caused by my excessive swinging on a triangular bar which in days of yore had been tied to the large sycamore tree standing in close proximity to the bank of Mill Pond, our local cooling off place, and without doubt home to every species of bacteria known to medical science and a few left to be discovered.

Somewhere trapped in my left hand some of the Mill Pond bacteria found a home and started increasing with amazing rapidity. In a few days my fingers had swollen into what resembled small link sausages and my hand did not look like my hand any more. Sleep became a stranger and eventually my mother sent me to the doctor where unpleasant happenings took place, but relief was quick. That night I slept as though hammered on the head with a two-by-four.

My grandmother's remarks of "calm, smooth water," had been hovering in my mind ever since my hand started such painful swelling, so it goes without saying that I was greatly pleased when my dreams that night were all of tidal waves, earthquakes and the end of the world. Not a bad warning in the whole repertoire.

As Mama would say, "It's just enough to make a person wonder."