Solstice


For Solstice I decided to post an excerpt from my novel, The Awakening of Russell Henderson that takes place at a Solstice party. Enjoy . . .

Meg and Hanna didn’t celebrate Christmas, but celebrated the Solstice as did most of their friends. Of course there was a party, this one at a house overlooking the ocean. We all arrived, all including Karen and Mick, around 4:30 for cocktails along with many others who I now knew. This was a potluck, so there was a copious amount of food and hors d’oeuvres. As usual, marijuana smoke permeated the air. We chatted about, ate, drank until after dark when everyone filled their glasses, got a fresh beer, and headed down long flights of wooden steps to the beach where a I saw huge pile of wood for a bonfire that would be lit to welcome back the new light of the longer days that would begin tomorrow taking us to the summer solstice in June. 

I had never really paid much attention to the solstice, just knew it was the shortest day of sunlight of the year. But these folks seemed to take it more seriously. Everyone gathered in a circle. Some had brought drums, and noise makers and had begun to create a rhythmic background as the circle began to sway back and forth. Someone lit the fire. As it grew, so did the excitement of the drummers and dancers. The circle broke into groups, some began tossing off clothes, some were already naked, dancing ecstatically. Then I saw Karen and Mick, both naked and lost in their revelry. My sister? Dancing naked? I had lost Hanna in the milieu. I slid into the background, into the dark beyond the fire light. My head was spinning like the dancers.

Shit, Russell, this is like some pagan thing. I can’t believe this. I need to leave.

I slipped away to the steps and went back up to the house and got a fresh beer, sat and wondered what I was doing. I felt like maybe I was in something I couldn’t handle. I was also somewhat drunk and high. I was feeling paranoid. All my past ‘shoulds and ought tos’ reared up inside me. What was I doing here? What was I doing with my life? I was wasting time. I was doing exactly what my parents criticized me for doing. Maybe they were right. But I want to be with Hanna. What had I gotten Karen into? What was I going to do? I hadn’t worked in over six months.

Coke and Dope . . . continued


One of the old boys asked in one of those southern drawls, us ‘Yankee’ boys could barely decipher, where I was headed. I told him I was in the Navy and heading back to the base in Gulfport. They all nodded their heads in approval. One smiled a toothless grin which made me feel a bit more at ease in this scenario that could have been taken from the movie, Deliverance.

The attendant came back in and I asked if there was anything I could do to clean the bug slime from my windshield. They all looked at me like I was some sort of ignorant alien.

The biggest, ugliest of them all, the one with the toothless grin said, “Son, get yourself a bottle of dope and run your wipers. Then pour that dope on and it’ll clean ’er right up. Works every time.” Everyone nodded in agreement.

Dope? What is dope? I thought. The look of ignorance on my face  must have been obvious because he added, “Coke Son, get a bottle of that Coke outa that chest over there. It’ll clean that windshield right up proper.”

One of the others added, “Best darn cleaner you can find. So do you want a little of this corn likker, young feller?” he said, offering me the jar.

“Thanks, but I’ve been driving since five this morning and I have to be back for muster tomorrow so I better not.”

“Awe, come on Son, just a nip. Do ya good for those last miles. Have one for god and country. You’re servin’ your country for us and we want to show ya a little appreciation.”

I didn’t want to insult these folks and was afraid if I refused I would so I nodded and bought two bottles of Coke, one for the windshield and one to have a nip of their shine. They all smiled their approval after I took a pull from my coke and offered it to be topped off. The man smiled up at me and filled my bottle. I thanked them, said good-bye, walked out the door swigging on my coke and shine. It was really good. I started the wipers and poured the other bottle on the windshield. It worked. The glass became crystal clear. 

I got in my car and headed down the road with a clear windshield. The rain had stopped, the coke and shine perked me up. As I drank I thought about how well the coke cleaned the windshield and considered what that  must do to a person’s stomach. I arrived back at the base safe and sound in good time for a needed sleep before 6:00 reveille.

I learned later that, originally, Coca Cola was laced with cocaine and in the deep south, folks still called it dope despite the fact cocaine had been illegal for years and was not used in the drink any more.

However, experiencing how well Coke would clean a windshield of bugs like it did, I never drank another coke again.

Coke and Dope


It was in 1967 when I was returning to The Naval Seabee Base in Gulfport, Mississippi after two weeks leave in Iowa visiting my family. I had been stationed there for a little over a year and had made the trip twice before. Being a low paid enlisted man, I would drive the 950 miles straight through since I didn’t have money to spend on a motel.

I was somewhere in the middle of Mississippi. It was pouring rain and the bugs on my windshield  smeared into a greasy film that my tired eyes could barely see through. 

Now, mind you, this was before the Interstate System had made it south so I had to drive two lane roads through every little town along the way. It was slow going and I had been on the road for about sixteen hours and was looking to be back to the base and in bed. I had maybe two or three more hours to go.

Needing gas and barely being able to see the road with the downpour and smeared bug grease, I spied a sad lonely gas station with its lights on. I pulled into the gravel drive and up to the pump. The attendant came out to top off my tank. He was a grizzled old man with a bushy white beard wearing a blue farm jacket over bib overalls and a greasy baseball cap. 

I told him to fill it and went into the station across a sagging porch and through creaking screen door, noticing the old grey unpainted, rotting wood siding. The floor inside was bare wooden planks, the counter was made of two twelve inch planks with a barrel at each end. The ancient cash register was open with its drawer looking like a ragged old tongue. The walls were bare wood, an old red ice chest with Coca Cola in large white letters embossed on the side sat in one corner.

There were several other men of equal age and disposition, sitting on wooden folding chairs around a card table where a game was in progress, all drinking Coca Cola. The game abruptly halted as they all turned to stare at me like I was some ‘foreigner’ which I most certainly was in that part of the country. 

While I shuffled around waiting for the attendant to come back in so I could pay, I noticed the card players’ attention was focused on a fruit jar being passed around which they were topping off the their bottles of coke with. It was clear liquid in an unlabeled fruit jar  and I could only guess that it was ‘Shine’. Some of my buddies and I knew where we could get fruit jars of ‘Shine’, illegal corn liquor, from a guy back in the woods north of Gulfport that we would take when we went camping for weekends on the beach. What I can say about the Shine we had gotten was that it went down smooth as molasses but kicked like a mule. I learned to be very careful of it because I would be a babbling idiot after only a few drinks.

To be continued . . .