The Sixth Man – Episode 61

A Familiar Face

You said you may have been here before,” Pudge said. “When would that have been?”

30 years ago,” Wilson said. “When Mathias and I got out of the army we came up here for a weekend of hell-raising.”

You guys in Nam?” Stretch said.

Wilson was,” Mathias said, “but I spent about all my time in Germany.”

Let’s have a seat at a table,” Pudge said, “I’ll buy a round.”

Pudge pointed out a table and they sat down. The bartender brought each a beer.

So why ya come back here?” Stretch said.

Well,” Wilson grinned, “it seems that I’ve lost my memory. With the help of my old army buddy, who I don’t remember, we came back to Fargo and this place hoping it might jog something loose.”

Ya know,” Pudge said sipping from his bottle, “I’ve lost entire weekends, but nothing more.”

Yeah, me too,” Stretch said. “I forgot where I parked my bike one time.”

I’ve forgotten where I’ve parked my car before,” Mathias said. “That kind of stuff happens all the time.”

Not two states over,” Stretch said.

Gentry, Winthrop,” an older biker from a booth called out, “is that you guys?” The biker slid out from the booth. His boots sounded heavy on the wooden floor as he walked toward them.

He was older, the same age as Wilson and Mathias. He wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and black leather vest. His grey hair was pulled tight in a pony tail.

He reached down and lifted up Wilson’s necklace. “Yeah,” he smiled, “that’s you Wilson. You wore this thing. Said it has always been with you, but never knew where you got it and what it meant. Have you ever figured it out?”

Are you Phil Porter?” Wilson said.

Yeah,” he said.

You remember him!” Mathias said.

Kinda,” Wilson said.

I overheard,” Phil said. “Sounds like you’re in a fix. You had a lot going on upstairs when I knew you back in the day. I thought you’d flip out or turn to drugs or alcohol.”

How did you happen to be here right now?” Mathias said.

This is my place,” Phil said. “It belonged to my dad and when he passed I took it over.”

Wait a minute,” Mathis said. “We came here to find you. You were Wilson‘s buddy from basic.”

Yeah,” Phil said. “After basic Wilson went one way I went the other. We met up again in Nam, got separated, and met up here again. Haven’t seen or heard of him till today.” Phil extended his hand to Wilson. “Other than not know what that losing your memory, how the hell are you?”

Wilson shook his hand. “You are one of the few things I recall.”

Well it must be the pretty face,” Phil said. He grabbed a chair from another table and sat at the table with them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

The Sixth Man – Episode 60

p2860396[1]A Friendly Game Of Pool

How many bikes are parked here?” Wilson said.

That’s not the question,” Mathias said. “It’s how many cars are parked here. I think we’ll be the first.”

Were you serious about keeping the motor running?” Wilson said.

Let’s go in,” Mathias said, “they’re guys just like us.”

It’s like black guys comin’ to a clan rally,” Wilson said.

And we done left our hoods at home,” Mathias said.

Well let’s go check it out,” Wilson said. “For some reason I think we did a lot of this 30 years. I got the feeling you got me into a lot of tight spots.”

Only a couple,” Mathias said.

They got out of the car and walked into the bar.

There were about dozen bikers in the bar; an undertone of talk interrupted by some laugher. A pool table was in an area to the right as they walked in. Two bikers were playing pool and the occasional sound of the balls colliding pieced the air.

Wilson and Mathias walked nervously to the bar and sat on stools. A big man, heavy with tattoos and wearing a black leather bikers vest over a blue denim shirt stood behind the bar bartender.

What are you boys drinking?” the bartender said.

Boys,” Mathias said. “We’re old enough to be your daddy.”

My god,” Wilson said. “You’re determined to get our asses kicked.”

The bartender looked curiously at them. “You’re right, what would you two gentlemen like, but don’t push me.”

Two Buds,” Mathias said.

One Bud and a Coke,” Wilson said.

The bartender got the drinks.

Any of this look familiar?’ Mathias said.

Nah,” Wilson said. “Was it a biker bar back then?”

Yeah, kinda,” Mathias said. “just a rough place; bikers, cowboys, and bad asses.”

Which were we?” Wilson said.

Same as today,” Mathias said, “out of place.”

The two men at the pool table placed their cues back in the rack.

Wanna rack ’em up? Mathias said.

Why not,” Wilson said. “There was a pool room in the basement of my house in Atlanta.”

Wilson and Mathias walked into the area where the pool table sat. Mathias grabbed two cues and handed one to Wilson.

We ain’t done playin’,” one of the bikers said.

You put the sticks back,” Mathias said.

There’s still balls on the table,” the biker said.

I didn’t notice,” Mathias said.

Wilson placed his cue back in the rack and so did Mathias.

You wouldn’t want to shoot a game of pool, would you?” the biker said. “Us against you.” the bike motioned to a tall thin biker. “That’s Stretch and I’m Pudge. How ‘bout if if play for $10 each.”

I got a better idea,” Wilson said. “Let’s just play for $100 each. I don’t like to be hustled and I don’t want you to think I’m hustling you. Let’s just get it all out of the way.”

Who do you think are,” Pudge said, “Minnesota Fats?”

You look to me like a man that like’s it straight up,” Wilson said. “Put it all up front.”

I don’t think we want to play these guys,” Stretch said.

Wilson looked at Mathias. “I’ve played here before, haven’t I?”

You guys go ahead and play,” Mathias said to Stretch and Pudge, “my friend and I got some reminiscing to do.”

How ‘bout just a friendly game,” Pudge said.

Friendly games have a way of getting out of hand,” Mathias said.

No,” Wilson said. “I think it will be good for me.”

Stretch racked the balls and Pudge broke. Mathias missed and Stretch followed with two balls in the pocket. Wilson ran the table.

I’m glad we didn’t play for money,” Stretch said.

If we do,” Pudge said, “he’s my partner.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

The Sixth Man – Episode 59

A Place To Remember

That night Wilson and Mathias visited a few old bars that Mathias remembered they went to. They drank a beer at each and left. Wilson remembered nothing.

Wilson and Mathias had a late breakfast near the motel. They finished eating and sipped coffee.

“Why don’t we head back today,” Wilson said. “It’s been a great time even though I don’t know who the hell you are.”

“Yeah,” Mathias said. “There’s only so much to do and see in Fargo.”

“I think we’ve seen it all,” Wilson said.

“There’s one more place, Mathias said.

“Oh yeah,” Wilson said.

“We passed by it yesterday,” Mathias said.

“Did you point it out?” Wilson said.

“No,” Mathias said. “When we drove by you looked at it. I wanted to see if you had a reaction and there was none.”

“Which place was that?” Wilson said.

“I’m going to try something with you,” Mathias said.

“Hypnosis,” Wilson said.

“No,” Mathias said, “I want you to think of the places we went yesterday, of those places which do you remember the most?”

“Why?” Wilson said.

“I’ve been thinking,” Mathias said. “The first place that pops back into your head may be a place that is already in your head.”

Wilson chuckled. “Mathias, you are incredible, that makes perfect sense.”

“Well,” Mathias said. “What is the first place you thought about?”

“It wasn’t a place we went into,” Wilson said. “If just sort of stuck out. I thought, man I’m glad we never went there.”

“What place was it?” Mathias said.

“That place that looked like a biker bar,” Wilson said.

“Finish your coffee, Wilson,” Mathias said. “I’ll pay the check.”

“What?” Wilson said.

“We’re going to the bike bar,” Mathias said.

“You’re kidding me,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna get out butts kicked in that place.”

“Not as long as you mind your manners,” Mathias said.

“How do I do that?” Wilson said. “The guys that go there don’t even know what manners are.”

“Let’s give it a try,” Mathias said.

“I don’t remember where it was,” Wilson said.

“I do,” Mathias said.

“What happens if we get killed?” Wilson said.

“It was for a noble cause,” Mathias said.

“Stupidity is not a noble cause,” Wilson said.

“Neither is war,” Mathias said.

“Let’s get in the car,” Wilson said.

“One last thing,” Mathias said. “We pull up, I’ll stay in the car with the motor running, you go in and look around.”

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

The Sixth Man – Episode 58

th7XJ2VGJHMathias’s Confession

There was a little chill in the air. Wilson and Mathias wore jackets and they huddled in them as they sat on a park bench.

What’s on your mind?” Wilson said. “Maybe it will help me and you.”

Do you know what it’s like to come from Hecla, South Dakota and serving with guys from New York, Jersey, LA? They walk all over you. You do what ever you can to keep up and prove you’re something. I just couldn’t do it so I came back to Hecla.”

Hecla isn’t such a bad place,” Wilson said.

I know,” Mathias said. “It’s a wonderful place. Do you remember, of course you don’t, but you told me one time you didn’t want to live in anyplace that had more than one coffee shop.”

I said that?” Wilson said.

Yeah,” Mathias said, “and it’s stuck with me all these years.”

Kinda wonder what it meant,” Wilson said.

We were having a conversation much like this one and I think you were telling me that I should be satisfied,” Mathias said, “but I think it was more about you. You said it like you wished you were someplace else.”

There’s more to this, isn’t there?” Wilson said.

I was always trying to keep up with everybody,” Mathias said. “Everybody seemed so quick. All I knew was working on the farm and peeking at girls’ gym class. I had a girl friend in Germany. I forced her.”

You raped her?” Wilson said.

In a manner of speaking,” Mathias said. “I told her I would marry her, but I had no intensions. I just wanted an accomplishment. I never told anyone. I just wanted to sit back and say to myself, ‘Yeah, I’ve been there and done that.’”

Mathias,” Wilson said. “You’re not the first guy that’s done that.”

But that’s not who I am,” Mathias said. “My dad didn’t raise me that way. He talked to me very directly. He told me a woman has a precious gift don’t steal it or lie to get it. I really understood what he meant. My mother has such respect for my dad, because he respected her. It was their way.”

We make mistakes,” Wilson said. “All we can really do is not repeat them. Character is not being perfect; it’s not making the mistake a trait or habit.”

There’s something else,” Mathias said. “She was pregnant when I left Germany. I promised I’d come back.”

I got a daughter back in Indianapolis I didn’t know existed until a few weeks ago,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait to see her again.”

How are you going to explain that to your family?” Mathias said.

Amnesia,” Wilson smiled. “Tell Bea and you two take a trip to Germany.”

Mathis hung his head.

Mathias,” Wilson said. “Do you know how many guys did what you did and have never given it a thought. You got a son or daughter in Germany; what kind of man would hold something secret for 30 years and seek to rectify it? What a legacy to pass on to your son or daughter in Germany.”

I’m worried about Bea,” Mathias said.

I think Bea will handle this a lot better than you,” Wilson said. “Trust here; any woman that would allow her husband to take off with an old army buddy to Fargo for a weekend of hell-raising has got to be pretty trusting and understanding.”

Mathias smiled and gripped Wilson’s thigh. “She hid the Viagra.”

I said trusting and understanding not foolish,” Wilson said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Sixth Man – Episode 57

thQQ76TV3VQuiet Desperation

They found a new motel on the edge of town. The motel they checked into 30 years earlier was now a convenience store and gas station. Most of the old bars were beauty salons, tanning salons, fitness gyms and, nail salons.

While driving around town and looking for familiar things Wilson said, “People are really absorbed in themselves.

Everyplace that was designed for the destruction of brain cells and the liver now has something to do will making you look and feel better.”

“Yeah,” Mathias said, “what has the world come to. You used to get stopped for drunk driving, weaving all over the road, and the deputy would drive you home or drive ahead of you with flashers to warn everybody. You know, ‘To protect and to serve.’ There was a time when those words meant something. Now you do prison time.”

“But the world is safer,” Wilson said.

“30 % of traffic accidents are caused by alcohol impaired drivers,” Mathias said. “I see the problem as the 70% who are sober.”

“Were you always this funny?” Wilson said.

“Not really,” Mathias said seriously. “I think funny, but seldom say stuff. I always said what I was thinking around you.”

“I was comfortable to talk to?” Wilson said.

“No,” Mathis said, “not particularly. I knew it just made you feel better. I was good for you and you were good for me.”

“When this is all over we should get together again and have some real good times,” Wilson said. “Do you like to fish?”

“Yeah,” Mathias said, “Do you?”

“How would I know?” Wilson said.

“Yeah,” Mathias said, “once you find yourself we might not even like each other.”

“Why did we go here?” Wilson said.

“How many bars did you see in Hecla?” Mathias said.

“None,” Wilson said.

“And how many women were in the bar?” Mathias said.

“None,” Wilson said.

“Well, there you go, Einstein,” Mathias said. “Not exactly E=MC2, but Albert didn’t go to Nam, Fargo, or have amnesia.”

“Is this all supposed to help,” Wilson said scanning the street and looking at the businesses. These streets probably don’t even resemble what they looked like in the 70s.”

“I’ve been comin’ to Fargo since the 50s,” Mathias said, “and believe me nothing’s changed. This town is stuck in time.”

“Nothing’s stuck in time,” Wilson said, “except for me. I take that back I’m stuck in a place, I just don’t know what it’s called.”

“The word is Hecla,” Mathias said despondently.

“You almost sound sad,” Wilson said.

“I should have never come home,” Mathias said. “It’s a big world out there and I’ve seen so little of it.”

“Regret?” Wilson said.

“I don’t know if it’s called that or not,” Mathias said, “but when you came to town it was like a breath of fresh air. I suddenly thought about all I missed. Bea has known it for some time. We got a way few times, but there was this crushing sinking feeling in my chest that everything I was looking at were the things I missed. Do you know what I mean?”

“Do you know what it’s like to forget everything?” Wilson said.

“No,” Mathias said. “I guess that answers my question.”

Wilson smiled and playfully shoved Mathias. “Way to go Einstein.”

“Every now then, Wilson,” Mathias said. “I’d think about you. I’d wonder what ever happened. I thought about the good times we had. We were so full of ourselves. As time went on the memories faded like they’re supposed to. I’ve never been close to anyone. Of course I’ve been close to Bea, but a friend. It’s been hard for me to do that. There are things we talked about that only you know and I’d like to talk to you about them., but right now is not the time.”

“I wish I could be that man,” Wilson said, “but I just can’t be. I’ve got nothing to give.”

Wilson parked the car.

“See the park over there?” Wilson said gesturing with his head.

“Yeah,” Mathias said.

“Let’s find a park bench and talk,” Wilson said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Sixth Man – Episode 56

No Navigation Needed

“I hope this drive to Fargo might help,” Mathias said.

“What do you mean?” Wilson said.

“One night before we got loud and obnoxious you kind of went into strange mood,” Mathias said. “I thought you might be having some sort of flash back from Nam. Suddenly you turned to me and smiled strangely. You said, ’You know my name is not really Wilson Gentry.’ I had no idea what you were talking about. Then you smiled like there was some secret you were keeping and you said, ’It’s really Devon Ennis.’

“That’s a name I’ve never heard before,” Wilson said.

“The next day I asked you about the name and you acted as if I were the one who was crazy,” Mathias said. “When you start looking again that’s a name you might want to consider.”

“This is maddening,” Wilson said. “I was first a man with not name, then I became Steve Joseph, it looks like I’ve spent most of my life as Charles Peterson and you know me as Wilson Gentry, and now the name Devon Ennis comes from no where.”

“It would be easy for me to say stick with Wilson Gentry and the heck with the rest,” Mathias said, “but I’ve never been faced with what you’re going through and I ain’t never heard of nobody that has.”

“I’m going to find out,” Wilson said, “if it takes the rest of my life. I want to be laid to rest knowing who I am and where I came from, no matter what.”

“You never talked about your past,” Mathias said. “You didn’t have one, did you?”

Wilson pulled the car off the side of the road and brought the car to a stop.

Wilson turned toward Mathias. “Yeah, Mathias, that’s what I’m afraid of; once I know and remember Wilson Gentry I’ll have to go back further. It’s like a scavenger hunt; my next clue is hidden under a rock, that gives me a clue to a mail box, that gives me a clue to flower pot, and so on.” Sometimes I wonder if I had episodes within the life of Wilson Gentry. Maybe we’re all like this; something happens, we go blank, and invent the past and there are those like me that can’t invent one.”

“You want me to drive?” Mathias said.

“Yeah,” Wilson said. “You know where to go.”

“Not really,” Mathias said, “I’m just afraid you’ll drive us headlong into the twilight zone.”

“It isn’t funny,” Wilson said.

“When it’s not me it is,” Mathias said.

north-dakota-road[1]Wilson grinned. “I can see how we became friends.”

They traded seats and Mathias steered onto the highway and headed toward Fargo.

“This is a nice car,” Mathias said. “Does it have all the navigation stuff on it?”

“Yeah,” Mathias said, pulled the car over again and stopped.

Mathias released the hood. He got out of the car and was under the hood for a minute. He got back in the car. “No more navigation.”

“Why,” Wilson said.

“There’s something going on, Wilson,” Mathias said. “And I think it’s within your best interest to not let anyone know where you are.”

“I don’t get it,” Wilson said.

“You don’t know a person you’ve talked to in the last six months,” Mathias said. “Not even me, but I’m the only one who has admitted to owing you money. Those folks back in Atlanta, they have every reason to keep you as you are.”

They drove toward Fargo.

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

The Sixth Man – Episode 55

th6RRJ326SDevon Ennis

“We was young,” Mathias said, “had that young blood pumpin’ through our veins. Fargo wasn’t quite ready for us. We were two guys out of the army and a lot of pent up testosterone. There’s two way to get rid of it; plenty of women or a good ass kickin’. We didn’t score well in at least one of the departments. Women are not attracted to chipped teeth or black eyes.” Mathis tapped his front tooth. “A cap, a reminder of Fargo and I ain’t as tough as I thought.”

“Tell me about it,” Wilson said.

“The one armed guy,” Mathias said. “We were dinking all night and it was about four in the morning. We stumble into the diner we were at the morning before; the one with the short order cook with one arm. The place was dead, a couple of truck drivers, couple of hookers, a waitress, and the one arm cook; there might have been another drunk or two. We was making a real raucous of things; tilting the pin ball machine, talking loud, bothering people; especially the hookers.”

“Anyway the one arm guy tells us to leave,” Mathias said. “I told him the place was dull as a Sunday morning sermon. He didn’t smile. I said ‘didn’t you get it, it’s like as useless as a one armed paper hanger.’ Man, the steam was coming out of his ears. You said ‘I can’t believe you said that’ and started laughing so hard you fell off your chair. Then I told him to lighten up. I put both of my hands out and said, ’Okay, let’s play slap jack.’ That’s when he chipped my tooth.”

“You got your clock cleaned by a one armed guy?” Steve said chuckling.

“Yeah,” Mathias said, “But he turned to you and you ran out of there like a bat out of hell.”

“We were pretty insensitive,” Wilson said.

“It all started when he started yelling at the waitress,” Mathias said. “We were being chivalrous in our own drunkin’ way.”

“It seemed like all we did was go from one bar to another,” Mathias said. “Got kicked out of most of ’em.”

“Did I say anything about the army or Nam?” Wilson said.

“No,” Mathias said, “You were adamant about that. Anytime I brought up anything about the Army, Nam, or Fort Ben you said there is nothing to talk about and that was final.”

Wilson slowly shook his head.

“Do you think it’s time to talk about it?” Mathias said.

“I want to,” Wilson said, “but there’s nothing there. Sometimes I feel like it’s water behind a dam and other times a brick wall with nothing on the other side.”

“You’ve never sought help?” Mathias said.

“No,” Wilson said, “and for some reason I’m resistant to it. I don’t trust psychiatrists or psychologists. It seems bizarre. I don’t remember ever going to one, but I know I was under the care or skepticism of Haverston. My brief meeting with him was enough to tell my why I don’t trust shrinks. He thought I was faking amnesias 30 years ago and he still thinks it. How can you deal with that?”

“Maybe you should try someone else,” Mathias said.

“I can’t,” Wilson said, “not until I find out who I really am. Then they can work on that one, not the others.”

“The others,” Mathias said, “Like Devon Ennis.”

“Whose Devon Ennis?” Wilson said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays