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Autumn for a Day-Old Toad: The Journal of A. Manley Stanz

Autumn for a Day-Old Toad: The Journal of A. Manley Stanz

by Terry Scott Boykie

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Highways gleam with two kinds of mica as Burma Shave boasts, I have lives like a cat Taking heed of the exits that exist for my money I stock up on earthworms, making protein from fat —America Coming Undone Now I am but a lowly boy who will die all alone with a knife in my heart, and my heart in my hand. Dishonorable foes bellow I never got punished; but I


Highways gleam with two kinds of mica as Burma Shave boasts, I have lives like a cat Taking heed of the exits that exist for my money I stock up on earthworms, making protein from fat —America Coming Undone Now I am but a lowly boy who will die all alone with a knife in my heart, and my heart in my hand. Dishonorable foes bellow I never got punished; but I formed the rock in this world built of sand. —Terrible Nail Have you ever felt a temporal lobe explode when you learn your sons are not your own? —Are You Kidding Me, Bruuuce?

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Autumn for a Day-Old Toad

The Journal of A. Manley Stanz
By Terry Scott Boykie


Copyright © 2013 Terry Scott Boykie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-8253-3

Chapter One

    Lenni Lenape, 1663

    Manitua Whippanong Pluckemin Wanaque Pequannock
    Secaucus Rockaway Piscataway Absecon Weequahic
    Hackensack Passaic Hohokus Tuckahoe Peapack
    Metedeconk Ramapo Piccatinny Allamuchy Totowa
    Raritan Loantaka Weehawken Mantoloking Lenape
    Musconetcong Shabyaki Manasquan Tammany Moonachie
    Navesink Sheyichbe Watchung Malapardis Hopatcong
    Succasunna Swannanoa Wawayanda Owassa Pennsauken
    Shackamaxon Hoboken Metuchen Manunka Chunk
    Hockamick Manito

    Most Urban State

    I grew up on the land of the Minnesink Indians in a place
    of willows not far from where persimmon and sassafras
    grow and sweet water runs from sloping rocks. Nearby,
    I rest where the Dark River and black snakes join with
    laughing waters. At the head of the cove, gulls nest, frogs
    mate, and swans swim in abundance. Beyond the valley
    and ridge where hills become cliffs, two raging rivers enter
    the serene flatland, home of the cold winter.

    In the Peaceful Valley, if the snow has been deep, the
    hot summer will provide vegetables, water roots, and
    corn for all year. Here Men among Men breathe between
    the waving stream and the shoreline next to homes of
    good women—a land of hard seashells with its beavers,
    groundhogs, and good fishing. This place is Whippany,
    with its waving willows near open pits in the high
    mountains that once produced flint for fire, soapstone for
    peace pipes, and jasper stones for arrows.

    In time, a beautiful trail ends at the winding-water-on-the-meadow
    in a rocky forest of oak, hickory, and red cedar.
    Here, great peoples who keep tobacco and dry firewood
    meet and talk of spirits and the Supreme Being.

    America, 1950
    (In memory of Aunt Gladys)

    Shower's over.
    Tattooed boys, their Negro-malice quelled
    for an instant by the midday sun,
    play mechanic with a '35 Plymouth.
    A biplane sputters; a "Blatz beer" banner
    flutters behind. Full-bellied war heroes gawk,
    then retreat to the business of baseball, beer,
    and the late-night whippings to follow.
    Weaned from her wet-nurse, a waif
    encased in steel, soon-to-die, suckles a fudge-icle,
    the drips lapped off the mud
    by a mutt with three legs.
    Overripe females, dresses stained with Kool-Aid,
    converge on a truck gutted from Anzio,
    its cargo of foodstuffs not good enough for Europe.

    Sam the Dented-Can Man,
    his right eye erased at Wake,
    leers with what remains at the bundles of
    bosoms cloaked in day-old grime.
    An old lady (the one whose tonsils were scorched away
    on her back porch by the new doctor)
    spies a tin of kraut, fat with gas,
    and offers a nickel for its roiling toxins.
    An ex-sailor, still a year or two away from
    the brain surgeons, counters with a dime.
    The auction is on;
    two bits win the can of cabbage;
    carrots go for less.
    White natives and refugees
    will eat well tonight.

Whatever Happened to Broad and Market? (In memory of Eleanor and Al)

Too young for the first World War, too slow for next, the big Polack boxed his way into local legend when he beat the man who beat the man who beat Mickey Walker. An ugly brute, he always held fists high to cover the wreckage of his misshapen head from his hundreds of welter, middle, and light-heavyweight brawls during the golden age of Dempsey until the dawn of World War Two.

Mr. Gawluk lived next door with his daughter's family, while the Catholic and orthodox masses played Fortress America against the thunder of blacks, PRs, and Moroccans storming their doors. Uncle Wazoo, as some called him, possessed enormous hands—flounder-sized palms and cucumber digits, all with the texture of crocodile leather after decades of drowning them in pickle juice. With a ten-dollar bill in his left hand and a fifty in his right, the Polack patrolled Kellogg Street from West Side Park to Woodland Cemetery, up Springfield Avenue all the way to Market, where the blemish had already taken hold. Down Neck, though, Europe prevailed. Here, on sweltering streets with stoops filled with immigrants bickering in Italian, Polish, Portuguese, or pidgin English, teenage strumpets and guidos battled over the relative merits of Mother Mary and Joe D.

Wazoo would goad neighborhood toughs into bare-knuckle matches. If you hit his paunch, you won the ten. Smack that crumbling face, and US Grant was yours. Winning the big fifty never happened. Before each match, street urchins not old enough to be called delinquents roamed the recesses of six-story walk-ups for loose change and cardboard canisters of dated beer. I followed along while Mr. Gawluk treated his pretenders, with their "devil made me do it" tattoos, as filth. He broke noses, split lips, and cuffed ear lobes until they all ran red, and best of all, he sliced open eyelids that the grandmothers would stitch back in place with thread carried in their oily smocks, as the tough guys yelped like puppies.

Gawluk used the ten dollars for me to purchase candy for his young admirers. He used his fifty to buy beer for the true believers of the Ironbound Brawler. What he won on bets, which some nights reached a thousand dollars, he gave to his daughter, who then gave half to the Catholic church. Opponents never got a nickel for their work. The Big Polack in his sauerkraut days may have lost to Battling Levinsky, Sergeant Sunny Blake, Young Frankie Corbett, or that guinea orphan from Brooklyn, but he never lost on the streets of Brick City, and we are all richer because this illiterate bully from Poznan taught youngsters like me to become men. Hey, jerk-off, you wanna fight?

    Quantum River
    (For Rita)

    Lena walked Willow River's banks
    collecting arrowheads and musket shot.
    She scaled trestles to wave at Rolling Red,
    steaming with coal to feed the mills.
    She plunged the depths of sinister pools
    where catfish ripped her flesh.
    She skipped rocks where the basalt
    channel turns shallow, then savored blackberries
    where Union soldiers did the same.
    She slid on mossy erratics, eroded
    smooth in glacial times.
    She searched for mallard ducklings
    so she and her girlfriends could watch them grow.
    Along the slip-off slope, she plundered
    a Ford jalopy that in its prime
    killed her cousin Rodney.
    The river flowed past sprouting hobo shacks
    the cops and rednecks would raid once a month.
    The river flowed past gravestone
    slabs of Captain Kearney and his sister
    who together panned for gold with their slaves
    while they pined for Irish mates.
    The river flowed past gin mills
    where blokes paid for what skirts plied—
    that essential texture of rawness
    that goodly girls would die for.
    Along the river, Lena lived and laughed
    those usual things that make a lifetime worth it.
    When she died in '64, I left this world soon after.
    Don't ask me how I write this now—it makes my brain
    go bilious—but the two of us live and love
    by some connected River in counter-clock causality.
    Light water too—it seems—flows through and past
    space and time, lost in Heisenberg's uncertainty
    where no one else gets close to us.

    Test Pattern
    (Dedicated to Grandma)

    The house was not plumb and the wind knew it.
    In winter, drafts would break into whistles
    and spook the old dog, who would pace
    the linoleum in search of calm.
    Sometimes, field mice would cozy between
    cinder blocks and joists and wait out
    storms, only to have the mutt paw
    their retreats in protest.

    Mostly, shades would stay up to take in
    the moon and stars, but with each cold snap
    they would come down to hold the dying heat.
    On snowy nights, the man and woman would retire
    to the foam-fill by midnight to sleep
    below a vinyl headboard with chewing gum
    warts, or they might linger a little longer
    with the residue of alcohol and ashes of death.

    By one, a little boy would fidget alone
    on a stale mattress with the glow
    of a space heater from the kitchen
    below and the drum of ice pellets
    on the corrugated roof above.
    In the dim, he would raise the shades and press
    his face and fingers against the glacial pane.
    Outside, a lone street light would reveal tomorrow's fate.

    By two, the little boy, wide awake yet half asleep,
    would secret down splintered stairs past
    cobwebs and clutter to the living room where
    he could hear the whistle of the wind loudest.
    He would turn on the brand-new TV and scrutinize
    its test pattern and consider what came next.

    Bouncing furtively on the sectional, he could feel
    the wilted tips of a philodendron and imagine
    tentacles of a beast preparing to eat him up.

    By three, the wind's whistle would become a melody,
    and the field mice and the mutt would have settled in
    for one last January. The ice pellets would have turned
    to snowflakes too muted to stir the snoring man
    or the drunken woman. And the little boy would
    doze off on the front room rug; his dreams of a snow
    day unfazed by the fading warmth of the space heater
    and the expectant blurry blush of the latest used TV.

    English/Metric Africa

    The Big Elephant
    is always the last to arrive,
    bachelors grousing off to the side,
    the inspection of cows all set and waiting
    precedes a twelve-foot erection ready for mating
    of an eleven-ton bull with tusks beyond twenty feet
    long to fervent females in heat with their tails
    and trunks to the sky; foreplay is short-lived,
    massaging of her buttocks and muffled sighs
    and murmurs give way to guttural grumbles
    and trumpets no man can boast, like nine
    quarts of semen for each female
    impregnated on Angola's plain,
    habitat to
    The Big Elephant
    is always the last to arrive,
    bachelors grousing off to the side,
    the inspection of cows all set and waiting
    precedes a four-meter erection ready for mating
    of a ten metric-ton bull with tusks beyond six meters
    long to fervent females in heat with their tails
    and trunks to the sky; foreplay is short-lived,
    massaging of her buttocks and muffled sighs
    and murmurs give way to guttural grumbles
    and trumpets no man can boast like eight
    liters of semen for each female
    impregnated on Zaire's plain,
    habitat to The Big Elephant

A Vote for Murray

Jews like Murray—scarlet-faced, portly, bald—always kept their end of the bargain. For five dollars down and five dollars a week for fifty-two weeks, a mere $265 bought you a two-piece, foam-filled, flesh-colored, cloth-covered, Swedish sectional, perfect for 1950s living. Why, nebbishes like Murray were even known to throw in a matching porcelain table lamp with a cellophane-covered, cherry-stained, nylon shade. With furniture like this, buyers from the wrong side of tracks could maintain an aura of parity with the Frazers and Weisses and Albohns, those engineering families on the right side of the tracks.

Murray came to collect his cash—no checks, thank you—every Monday morning, always dressed in a buttercup sport coat, matching slacks, polka-dot tie, and a turquoise porkpie. With that kosher nose, Murray would sniff around the door jamb for a tiny brown envelope with the proper payment stashed inside, though most times the pittance wasn't in its place; so Murray would hammer with his fist and yammer, "Bill collector!" with a racket sure enough to shake an aging mutt to its senses. The dog's growls and howls usually scared off most Yids, but never Murray, as he would continue to rattle the doorknob until it fell apart in his dainty but calloused hand.

With the racket growing, the souse would rouse to find a crumpled Lincoln in the dresser drawer underneath packs of unused Trojans. If not, she would scream for that fat hymie to come back for a sawbuck the following week. Funny, the drunken bitch never seemed to care if the Tinises, Waheels, and Stangs—the lapsed Catholic families on the poverty side of the tracks—overheard the frequent uproar.

That flesh-colored, Swedish sectional became the first of three sofas the woman bought from Murray, the respected furniture merchant, who became the town's mayor sometime later.

Graduation Day (Dedicated to Carolyn)

Years before I failed at living, years before my day of giving marched in ninety-six of us, pomp and all that circumstance, adolescence bursting forth, children selfish for their chance; lost amongst the auld langsyne, I felt a tear come to my eye.

Artie Bourgeois, black and beaming, lugged the flag for all his scheming; merrily we marched behind, past the fields where we played ball, girls in white, boys in blue, a parade of delusions for one and all; big foot up, little foot down, we strode in unison right through town.

Blondie followed with the scriptures, pursued by two dead-heads' pictures; scarlet fever came and went, culling Gina from our class; Shirley, though, is another tale with that crowbar up her ass. Detectives said it wasn't murder, even if her father liked to hurt her.

Trumpets blared that we were nearing, parents cried with teachers cheering. Seats assigned from front to back, best ones went to pretty faces; average lads and average lasses were left to fill the average places, trained since five to obey orders; geeks like me sat near the borders.

[??] "Can you see by the dawn's early light" [??] patriots all we claimed that night. Back row left, fat and sassy, "Slats" didn't sing, but he could shoot; joined the jars four years later, "gonna go off and slaughter a gook." Stomach in a foxhole, brains in a paddy, he would give his all to please his daddy.

Reverend Winston prayed for grace for those begat to the master race. He joked about how sad we were when Mr. Berg became a Jew who to the promised land to corral a kosher boy or two; then Winston offered a Bible reading to keep our hearts from ever bleeding.

Principal Hubbard came out festive, waxed too long, we all grew restive, words of welcome lost in time, rattling through the assembly hall. Mrs. Pierson could not take it; she curled right up in a taffeta ball. Was she drunk? Was she bloated? We found out later her bowel exploded.

Bee Gee gave the salutation, foghorn voice in exaltation, "Mothers, fathers, teachers, friends, we love this home with all our heart; "We bid adieu to our hallowed dwelling, we leave tonight for worlds apart." Never had we heard such prattle but we lacked the care to provide battle.

"Bug-eye" Johnson, class bootlicker, harkened back with nary a snicker. He recalled Christmas pageants, dance band, tumbling, students' rights? I remembered polio needles, bomb threats, air raids, lots of fights. "Bug-eye" reveled in each teacher's glow; most of us just prayed for snow.

[??] "You'll never walk alone," [??] sang the chorus, but don't tell Duke who became Doris; Martha was no favorite either with her belly eight months showing; Groundball never found attention until his tumor started growing; Fatty Patty seemed so weird; maybe it was her beard we feared.

Melancholia gripped the elite; beautiful girls gave out a shriek. Starlet Buffy reduced to tears for losing out on the kindness prize; cute, caressble, flirtatious yet fake, she thought she'd win with her guise. Carolyn Klinger grabbed the award, for an instant only it was praise the Lord.

Now we came to that smart kid's hour, reaping his medals for mental power. We sat around like the dunces we were as all his accolades were accorded; If aptitude denoted genetics, we had earned the right to be aborted. As for me, it was history "B," "C" in math, "D" in literature for sassing Plath.

[??] "Give me your tired, your poor," [??] as long as they're Christian and white for sure. Mr. Woodruff, retiring super, praised our singing such noble views; he promised us riches, fame, and glory if we believed in freedom's ruse. At his gravesite a few years later, they asked forgiveness for the old race-baiter.

Grand Dame Hoskins of the B of E handed out diplomas affectedly, Katie swooned, Ronny collapsed, Roger tumbled right off the stage; Mr. Scanlon grabbed Roger's neck, dragged him out to the principal's rage; we played dumb, never saw a thing, in the land of the blind we were king.

[??] "For all we know, we may never meet again." [??] Well, farewell Artie and Carolyn. Au revoir Patty, Groundball, Slats, Blondie, Bee Gee, starlet Buffy; sayonara Reverend, Bug-eye, Duke, Ronny, Martha, Shirley's killer; adios Mickey, Howdy Doody, Darlene, Doreen, Donald, and Huey.

We marched back out, a girl with a boy, puffed-up pride, overblown with joy; most of us made it up through twelfth, found some work, found some action. Most got married, half got divorced, all spent lives in search of passion; alone in the languor of my cynical strain, old memories flourish even as I wane.

    End of Days

    They took Wally to the clinic to take a bunch of photos.
    Word soon came around that Wally was dehydrating
    from over-the-counter drugs like Dramamine and No-Doz
    They said, eat less and drink lots more, and no more


Excerpted from Autumn for a Day-Old Toad by Terry Scott Boykie Copyright © 2013 by Terry Scott Boykie. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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