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I like to write and I like to party, but mostly just the writing. Disclaimer: A lot of these stories are true ones. The memory of growing-up in and around Killybegs. When you hold a mirror up to small communities, sometimes there are those who don't like the reflection. Capote knew this only too well. If you find the refraction just a little too much and would like the angle of incidence changed in your favor, please email me at georgevial@hotmail.com and I will be happy to make a name change here or there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sketch of a Midwestern Boy

His Dad was of all-American blood, those that had been here three generations or more, but his mother was the daughter of a recent German immigrant. She grew up bi-lingual and used that to her advantage; teaching high school German for the past nineteen years.

She met his dad when she was in college and he just a boy, a private in the Army. Over the years they moved as the military dictated and while stationed on a base in Germany, Frank was born.

Frank Benson, most people called him little Frankie, looked like his father, with his mother’s diminutive stance. He was the apple of both their eyes: the perfect child in every sense.

Earned his Eagle badge at twelve, wrestled in grade school, went to state in high school and was at church every Sunday, nestled between his mom and dad and his younger brother and sister flanked their sides.

The summer he finished high school he was a church camp counselor, praised Jesus and prayed his heart out to the kids. He turned eighteen in June and his Daddy was made Full Colonel. The summer passed in religious bliss except when his Daddy called him from the airport and he couldn’t come to pick him up.

When he went home that Sunday afternoon for lunch his Dad didn’t speak to him, just looked at him with disapproving eyes. Frankie weakly gestured “I couldn’t come, I couldn’t get permission.” But it wasn’t enough.

In August, college started, he went to the better of the state school. Joined a fraternity and wrestled as a freshman. But that was a different league and intramural sports like soccer, Frisbee and running took their place. Average grades were obtained and the Colonel wasn’t happy. They weren’t good enough.

The summer came quick and once again he was a counselor at the church camp, surrounded by other youths blinded by their euphoric sense of righteousness. Even alone one night with a female counselor and she sucked his cock, it was all in the name of Jesus. Every time they did anything it was in the name of Jesus.

After going out to a restaurant one evening, Frankie and several other counselors, that had the night off in the name of Jesus, were stopped by two Buddhists spreading their word.

Frankie and another girl stopped to listen, the others told them to come on. Later, back at the staff-house a girl was crying, screaming quietly that Frankie wanted to listen to the heathen. A thought occurred to Frankie and he asked why couldn’t they both be right as long as they both believed in what they were saying? That only brought condemnation and several people prayed that he’d find his way back to Jesus. As not to upset anymore people Frankie stopped talking about the Buddhists and told them all that he was back with Jesus. The crying stopped.

During his sophomore year he met a girl that didn’t suck his dick for Jesus, she did it for herself and when they had sex it was for herself too. He found alcohol didn’t suit him too well and marijuana gave him a great sense of euphoria, which he’d never attained from prayer.

He cared less about his grades and even less about what the Colonel thought. His fraternity was distant to him and he only met the other Christians to play a friendly game of soccer, but off course, they couldn’t even kick-off without the blessing from big J.

When summer came along the Director of the church camp decided to make him a leader. All summer he was apart from the children, apart from the other counselors. He belonged to the politics that allowed everyone else to enjoy their religious bliss. By the time August came he felt empty inside and Jesus was not his friend: He often called, but Jesus was not at home.

In his Junior year he took a class in World Religions and found the Tao to his liking. He loved the idea of Karma and Chi and the Confucian Code was very human and attainable, unlike the blind faith he’d been fed on Sunday mornings as the breakfast of his childhood.

The new ideas were not very welcome at home. The Colonel warned him not to become a”Fucking Commi’.” His mother told him it was all right to explore new ideas as she had recently become a vegetarian and Jesus didn’t mind.

The other boys in his fraternity forgot he even belonged, except when dues were owed. He found his niche among the kids that he’d always believed were going to hell. Beer, BMX biking, free style walking and pot were the common bonds and what a simple society they made. The Chi was good.

He passed in and out of the church camp that summer as a volunteer because he had classes to retake and places to see. He didn’t mind ‘cause it kept the colonel happy and him free.

His senior year was a blur; it was just one big going away party. They started practicing in August and by May they had it perfected. He walked, Frankie Richard Benson, with no honors or distinctions, with a degree in the liberal arts. The Colonel asked what the hell he was going to do with that. He said he didn’t know, maybe he’d teach. “Teach what?”
“Teach Life!…”

He was allowed to stay at home ‘till August. So until then he worked in the kitchens of the church camp. That way he didn’t have to suffer Jesus looking in on everything he did.

At night when the kitchen was all cleaned up, he and the kitchen guy would go drinking or take a drive down to Lawrence and hang out with his little brother Tom. Tom had had gone through a much more quiet revolution of rebellion than that of Frankie, he slipped under the Colonel’s radar: it was what the first born son did that counted.

The Director of the church camp said he was walking a very thin line and if he cared to cross it he could. And he did. The Director fired him and the Colonel kicked him out of the house.

He went to live with Tom and got a job as a teacher’s assistant at a high school. His car broke down in the winter. The Colonel waited to be asked for help, but instead after a few beers, Frankie, Tom and a few friends took it apart with baseballs bats and a broomstick.

He caught the bus ‘till school went out for the summer, then bought a motorcycle, grew a beard and decided to see America.

That summer he didn’t call home, just a post-card once to say all was well in California. He didn’t need Jesus to ride pillion. He just rode where he Chi, his Karma, his Tao, his own sense of being liked. He saw everything he wanted to see, did everything he wanted and talked to whoever. This was his first season as a man of his own making: not a hollow shell of someone else’s design.

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