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"Luckily, I didn’t get my hands on any of that brown acid they talk about. That stuff made you plumb crazy, as I remember it. That Wavy Gravy had his hands full in that tent of his..."

ten minutes and counting
fiction by rob rosen


Pardon me if I ramble. Nah, nix that. I only got ten minutes left to record all this; least that’s what it said there on that site. If I ramble, so be it. It’s my prerogative, right?

Anyway, don’t rightly know who’s gonna hear this thing anyway. They’re all gone now, my family and friends that is. Outlived ‘em all. Not something to be proud of, really; just a statement of fact. Actually, that’s pretty much the reason I took the pill in the first place. What’s the point of going on? Ain’t got nobody to share my remaining years with, anyhow. All the ailments that come with old age, they ain’t nothing compared to the loneliness. Especially at night, when it’s so quite you can just about hear a pin drop. So I took it and I don’t regret it. Tell the truth, I’m sorta lookin’ forward to what’s coming next. If there is a next, that is. That’s what I’m hoping for, at any rate.

I sure deserve something for puttin’ up with all this old age crap. Losing the wife was the worst thing, though. What a bitch. Er, sorry, old age is the bitch, not the wife. Though, truth be told, she could get quite ornery when she put her mind to it. Especially those last few years. The cancer made her sorta mean. Still, I’d give just about anything to have just one more day with her, mean or not.

I don’t got much, but I still got my memories. Well, most of ‘em, anyways. The mind’s been kinda goin’ lately too. But I remember my Ruthie, all right. Least the good stuff. I sure do remember how we met, that’s for sure. Hard to forget a thing like that. I was already kinda old for that sorta thing. Woodstock was for the youngsters. But good music is good music, right? Besides, I wasn’t all that old. And the farm was just outside the city. New York city, that is; which is where I was living at the time. Transplanted from deep inside the hills of Arkansas, where people didn’t cotton to folks like me.

What a crazy weekend that was. Luckily, I didn’t get my hands on any of that brown acid they talk about. That stuff made you plumb crazy, as I remember it. That Wavy Gravy had his hands full in that tent of his. Nah, I had me some nice smiley-faced blotter. The pure stuff. Went down smooth as silk and lit the whole place up, it did. Put a swirl of colors upon all that brown mud. Made it all beautiful.

I remember it so clearly, sitttin’ on the lawn, listening to Santana, then Janis, and Sly, and CCR. We called that a mind fuck: listenin’ to all that super sweet harmonizing and tripping like we were. I just sat there with my head bobbing to the rhythm of the music, my eyes closed, watchin’ the lights from within, smiling and happy to be alive. Transcending, we called it.

Then I opened my eyes to watch The Who come on stage and there she was, standing over me, lookin’ down and just a grinnin’ from ear to ear. The sun, what there was of it, was high up overhead and she was blockin’ it, so that an aura of light surrounded her. It was like an angel appeared out of nowhere. And then the light around her head started to change colors, from blue to red to green and then purple and orange and then back to blue. What a sight that was. I grinned back up at her and told her to take a seat, which she did. The Who had a long set. She sat next to me the whole time, not saying a word, just smiling and humming and holding my hand while I stroked her long, blonde hair. It was nice. Calming. For real, as I like to put it, back in the day. She would have said groovy, but I was a might too old for that.

Ruthie spent the night with me there on the lawn with the other hundreds of thousands of other kids, all of us tripping on one thing or the other. All of us happy to be there, with or without food or showers or johns. We were young. Who gave a crap about those things anyway? Not me and Ruthie, that’s for sure. Besides, we had each other. And the music.

The next day started off with Jefferson Airplane. Great fucking way to start the day, I say. Ruthie and I dropped as Grace Slick sang about a white rabbit. That’s something you can’t forget, no matter how easy you forget everything else, like where you put your keys or shopping for food. But I remember Joe Cocker and Blood Sweat And Tears and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Ain’t it funny that most of them guys is still around. Still playing at their age. My age, that is. Kind of ironic, huh? Then again, we had that idiot Reagan runnin’ the country while he was about the same age as me and I can barely wipe my own ass. Oh well, that’s life, so they say.

Anyway, Ruthie and I left before the fourth day. Sorry to have missed Jimmy perform, but eager to get us back to my place in the city. Eager to start something together. Something real; which we did. Though Ruthie hated the city. Said it was too fast. Too loud. Too mean. So we left. Fuck it, I said. We had that wanderlust that so many of our generation had. And we wanted to see San Francisco while it was still in its heyday. We’d heard the flower children out there were fast becoming disillusioned. That the drugs were turnin’ ‘em all hard and desperate like. Still, it was the place to be. Least for us it was. So that’s where we headed.

Crossed this big country of ours with nothin’ but our backpacks and our legs to take us to the promised land. Met a whole bunch of kind folks that were glad to help us along our journey. People, by and by, we found, were good and kind. Maybe they are that way today. Don’t rightly seem so, though. Lord only knows what’d happen to ya if you hitchhiked from one end to the other these days. Probably get yourself killed. Not back then, though. People was glad to offer you a ride. Give you some of their food and maybe a place to sleep. Tell you their stories. Share.

Ruthie and I shared, that’s for sure. By the time we reached San Francisco, we was tighter than two peas in a pod. Knew each other backwards and forwards. Were deep in love and glad to be home, our new home, that is.

Found lots of other kids just like us out there. They called us hippies. We called us happy. Screw them, anyway, we said. They didn’t know what they was missin’. Life wasn’t easy, not by a long shot, but it was fun. Ruthie always made it fun.

Woke me up every morning, in that small flat we shared with six other kids just outside the Haight, with a warm cup of homebrewed tea and a big smile. Never started my day off without that beautiful smile of hers. Always went to bed with it, too. Who could have asked for anything more? We sure as hell didn’t. We were happy with what little we had: with our friends, our home, our lives together, not to mention the drugs; which weren’t like those drugs they got around today. No sir. Drugs didn’t make you mean, back then. Maybe a bit crazy, but we never got violent or nothin’. Besides, it all came so freely. Never needed to do nothin’ but ask for it and it was given to you. Same thing went for food and clothes and a warm bed. Even sex, but Ruthie and I never shared that. That was for us and us alone. Ruthie wasn’t for sharin’.

Married her right in Golden Gate Park, I did. All our friends and neighbors, all the kids in the Haight, were there, surrounding us. All with them flowers wrapped around their long hair. All tripping and hugging us and singing their songs. Was quite a sight to see. Can still see it, actually, if I close my eyes and sit real still like I am now. Ruthie was so pretty in her white gown that the kids made for her out of throwaways. So young. So full of life and ready to get on with it.

Well, that’s how I remember it, anyhow. Killed too many of them brain cells to be certain. Still, it must’ve went something like that. I do know we was happy. For a while, anyway. You can only stay poor and hungry for so long. Comes a time you gotta pull yourself up by the bootstraps and do something to better your situation. Besides, we had a kid on the way. Couldn’t rightly bring it up in that sort of environment, could we?

Nope. Went out and got me a real job working for the city, once we found out Ruthie was pregnant and all. Wasn’t too keen on the work, but managed to save enough money to find us a small basement apartment to raise our family in. Could even see a bit of the Golden Gate Bridge, if you craned your neck just right outside the bedroom window. Sure was nice not having to walk all over those bodies just to get to the john. Still, growin’ up and gettin’ older brought us a whole new set of things to worry about.

Feeding and dressing the baby was our first concern. Matt Jr. was born on a cold day in July. Yep, summers in San Francisco are pretty much like winters anywhere else, though I wouldn’t say that was a bad thing. That crisp, clean fog sure was nice to smell and feel on your skin. New York didn’t have none of that. Course, the baby was always getting’ colds and such. And doctors’ visits and medications didn’t come cheap. Pretty much wore Ruthie and me out, emotionally and financially speaking. Still, I always got that smile when I woke up and when I went to bed. Always counted myself one of the lucky ones, I did.

That is until the baby got real sick. Doctors said not to worry about it. Was natural for kids that age to get to wheezin’ and coughin’ like that. We was so sad that morning we found him there like that; so cold and blue like. Damn doctors. What did they know, anyway?

Losing Matty like that took something out of Ruthie, it did. Smilin’ came harder for her. Didn’t seem like there was all that much to smile about, really. Something we had was missing and we weren’t ever gonna get it back. That’s a darn shame, too. Ruthie and I had so little and we asked for so little in return. Least we still had each other, though. Nothing could take that away from us.

Well, least not for twenty years or so. Those were some pretty good years, too. Had our highs and lows, but, all in all, I don’t think I’d change much. Never did have any more kids. Ruthie just couldn’t handle the thought of losing another one. Couldn’t rightly blame her for that. Besides, she had me to deal with. I could be a handful, I’ll tell you what.

Then the cancer came. Just like that. Ruthie found that nasty lump and was gone just a few months later. The Lord took Ruthie away from me and left me pretty much alone. And a man alone with his thoughts all day ain’t hardly a man at all. Those thoughts get caught up all helter skelter like in your head when you can’t share them with someone else. No sir, it pretty much drove me crazy. Ruthie was the glue that held me all together.

Life went on, though. Pretty much had to, right? Not much of a choice we’re given on that one. Well, up to a point. Actually, there’s something to be said for all that new fangled technology they got around these days. Found a whole bunch of people like me on that there Internet. Lots of lonely people out there, it turns out. Lots of people just aching to talk to somebody. Anybody. Even an old coot like me.

That’s where I found it, actually. The pill, that is. Found how it works and where to come by it. Was easy. Hell, you can find just about anything you like on the Internet these days. A life. Or a death, as the case may be. Got it in the mail yesterday. Just needed to get some things in order before taking it. Like buying this here tape recorder, for posterity sake. Don’t rightly know who’s gonna listen to this, or even care. Just felt like someone should know about what I done and why.

Anyway, I’m getting’ kinda sleepy. Sure it’s the pill and all. Don’t you fret, though. I ain’t scared. Life is scary. This here thing is easy as pie. I’m just gonna sleep and not wake up, is all. Well, not wake up here, anyway. Maybe someplace better. Someplace with Ruthie. Man, can’t wait to see that smile again. Been so long since I’ve seen it. Seen Ruthie and that great big smile of hers. Please, Lord, let there be that smile again. Please Lord, let…there…be…that sm…..

(illustration: john richen • kurt eisenlohr)


Rob Rosen was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1966. He spent his childhood in the suburbs of New Jersey, his teen years in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and much of his early adulthood in Atlanta, Georgia, where he graduated from Emory University with a B.S. in Biology and then worked for eight years as a Clinical Biochemist. When he turned thirty, he packed it all in, sold his car, broke his lease, gave up his career and followed his dreams to San Francisco, where he is now an Office Guru. So much for that expensive education. His first book is "Sparkle."

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©2004 Rob Rosen
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