Friday, November 18, 2011


This story begins in a post titled KING and QUEEN

I need to tell you why - why I didn't see him before he died. Of course I had no idea he was going to die.

Someday, yes
Sooner than later, maybe
But not this soon, not this young.

I tried to convince myself that I didn't need to tell you why I didn't see him but I do. Not to justify my actions (or lack thereof) but to paint a true image of the whole man. It is not my intention to bash the dead. I don't want to taint an already somber image of a father, a grandfather, a brother, a son.

It would be easy to blame it on my husband because he asked me not to see him. This coming from a man who never says, "don't." But that's not why I didn't see him.  

S.K., You should get in that nice car of yours and come visit me. tell your hubbie a little white lie to go out of town for a day.  It won't be the first husband you had to tell a little lie about me.  think about it.  I just want to make you laugh again and see the smile on your face. 

It's true, I lied to my (first) husband when I met up Chester at a bar back in 1977. After a few beers, we left to see the movie Star Wars. I hated it and insisted we leave after 30 minutes. On the way out I saw the marquee for A Star is Born and pulled him in. Chester was tripping and would enjoy any movie as long as it was in color, but I was desperate for romance.

To this day, A Star is Born remains one of my all time favorite movies. I loved her intoxicating voice synchronized with his rugged good looks. I loved what they forced out of each other - how her rising success gave him pride and pain. I loved the way he looked at her. I loved that she loved him despite his addiction.  

The next day, I told my husband I was leaving him. A week later I moved out of our trailer and back home with my mother. Two weeks after that, Mom and I piled everything we could fit into a car and took off in search of our star. We had no idea where we were going, all we knew is that we had outgrown our tiny town.  

Chester stayed behind and agreed to clean out the contents of our house. The home I had grown up in - spent 14 years of my life in. "Get rid of everything," Mom told him. "I don't care what you do with it."

It would be another five years before I would hear from him again. By then he was in jail for selling pot and mescaline.

I know what you are thinking - that he wrote to me because he had plenty of time on his hands. But I know it was more than that.

One of the things that struck me about his letters was his contentedness. He never asked for anything and he never felt sorry for himself.  

You know S.K., I would not change a thing, except the jail time. I have two great kids and a beautiful granddaughter that I am going to spoil the hell out of.  I have to stay clean for myself but she will help a lot.

And, he was very entertaining.  

I ran into a man here who is from Greenwich, and it made me think of you. Walter Forbes, his name is. His picture was on the front page of the New York Times a few weeks ago with Bernie Madoff.  Walter is one of the top rip-off artists in the country.  We work up at the chapel.  Well, we don't work.  Walter and I go up there 4 hours a week and talk about the good old days...

When I was young, I wrote to him about my son. When my son died, I wrote to him about my pain. As I healed, I wrote to him about what my pain taught me.

I wrote to him about my belief in soul pacts - an agreement between souls to learn lessons like honesty, modesty and generosity, or to correct mistakes made in past life's. 

In fairness, my letters where pompous and perplexing at best. I wrote about attending writing seminars in Paris, music festivals in New Orleans and of course, I wrote to him about Burning Man.  

How do you explain Burning Man to someone who has spent a big chunk of his life in prison?

Your letter was very confusing.  You are obsessed with this Burning Man thing and green monkey. When I get out send me the whole book.

It was impossible for me to deny that, like all things, we had changed. We no longer had a common thread - the thrill, rush and passion of our youth was gone.

But even that's not why I didn't see him.

Towards the end of his incarceration, the tone of his letters started to change. He sounded defensive and insecure. He judged me for what I had, not for who I was.  

You might not like what I am about to say, which I do not even have the right to say. Everyone I seem to meet from the New England States - Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, seem to be very snobbish (not that there is nothing wrong with that). It just seems like all you people care about is material things. Who has the better of this or the better of that.  We grew up on two different sides of the road.  To me material things mean nothing. We live two different lives you and I.  You live the life of the Rich and Famous.  You are very well off I am very happy for you. I am just a poor, broke, country boy.  I have lived a life of crime and danger...  

I don't know if the time in jail was beginning to get to him or if, as his release date grew closer, he was apprehensive about joining the real world.

When he got out in 2009, his letters where uplifting and filled with hope.

It is x-mas day the first x-mas out of jail in a very long time.  I am in a half way house for a few months but it is cool here.  I had x-mas eve diner with  my Mom and 2 Brothers.  It was good.  I have been with my kids and their Mom doing shopping and things.  Their Mom and I are like best friends. I will get ready for the real world if it is ready for me. I would say that I have nothing but that is so wrong.  I have love, faith and hope and one or two real friends.  There is nothing in the world, on gods green earth, better then that.  I have found peace with myself.

And then something happened - something went terribly wrong.

I wish I could tell you what it was, but I have no idea why he changed.

His euphoria took a bitter, cruel twist. There was rage in his words - they were vicious and meant to sting.

The reason WHY I didn't go to see him is because I no longer recognized him.

"Stick that in your pipe and smoke it you fatass bitch" is my interpretation of the last thing he wrote to me.  What he wrote was...

i gussu dont have enofe ballsto talk to a old friend on the phone or mead them face to face about the way we live are lifes u hide on a computre grow up rich bitce uhad it all handed doweto u try having to get it all on your one u do what u hae to do i hope u have a better glase of wine then the johesones did this week u and your douthers yankey boy toy or condo in new orl landes conn. shobes are all the same so stick that in your pip and smoe itfack ass bitch.

It's hard to read. Not just because of the misspellings, but because of the pain that oozes onto the page. 

Like my son, now that he's gone, his words are all that I have, and I savor them. All of them.

And like my son, I was not the cause of his death, but I was a catalyst. Maybe that was part of our soul pact.

In his final message, I am focused on a string of correctly spelled words...

"the lord and we have a lot of love"

You truly did have a lot of love Chester. You shared your laughter and love freely. This was who you were, this is who I knew. This is who I choose to remember.


S.K.,  I am so glad you are still alive.  Not 6 ft under.  Most of the people I grew up with are no longer.  I have to see you before something happens to one of us.  You know what... we have been writing to each other for 37 years. Do you no anyone else that can say that.  That is off the hook!  I have to stop for a few, my arson friend got me an ice cream. Today is store day. Write back soon.  With love always, have fun, Chester

p.s. ask your husband if I can come up and spend a day with you. 

Annie says it best...

11/17/2011 WORD COUNT 12, 931

Green Monkey Tales © 2011 Shannon E. Kennedy


  1. Fantastic post. I too have friends that I have lost touch with because I don't recognize them anymore.

    Sometimes they come around to who they once were and sometimes they don't. One such friend that came around is the one who's re-roofing my house Monday, weather permitting.

    But that FB thing, sounds more like he went back to the drugs. You don't go from choerant sentances and beautifl words to that.

    Or maybe, it wasn't him.

  2. I am seldom speechless, but this is one of those times... I need to read this several more times before I can really reply to this post. There are so many things going on within this writing.

    It is truly marvelous...


  3. "I wrote to him about my believe in soul pacts - an agreement between souls to learn lessons like honesty, modesty and generosity, or to correct mistakes made in past life's."

    This touched me, GM, and is familiar. Maybe life is trying to tell us all to correct our past mistakes every day...

    This was tough to read.

    Just keeps getting better, your writing. No wonder you were pounding the keyboard.



  4. thank you MG, Shoes, and Julianna. I really needed some encouragement. I'm at the library now, trying to write about the night Kerry died. I thought writing about Chester was hard...

  5. there are those we knew...and grew apart from...and then there are those we hardly knew...and grew closer to!! Keep up the great writing, Shanny!!

  6. well done Shannon. Keep exposing your heart. Prov. 3:5&6 are life verses for me. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.(6)In all your ways ackowlegde Him, and He will make your paths straight. Helped me through some very difficult times.

  7. Wow, this was really a powerful story, once again putting in excerpts of his letters was great and gave all of us an insight into this man who seemed to be a smorgabord of emotions. What a unique relationship you had with him. Great piece of writing!

  8. Maureen... stop making me cry! xoxo
    Unknown...(aka Jack) what a beacon of strength you are to me
    Marty... it was a unique relationship. so glad I saved his letters. so glad I was able to look back and see all of him, not just the end.

    Thank you all so much.. I am grateful.

  9. DAMN... I just realized that if you subscribe to my posts and read them from your email (and not on the blog page) that you are only seeing the first version of the story. I've tweaked it 27 times since then.

    PLEASE don't read it from the body of your email. Oh....never mind.... you can't see the comments either.

  10. This made me happy that you had someone like him, and sad that he died before he could tell you what it really was he was hurting about. Because it wasn't you.

  11. "I wrote to him about my believe in soul pacts - an agreement between souls to learn lessons like honesty, modesty and generosity, or to correct mistakes made in past life's."

    This is what I think, too.

    And I also need to read this more than once, I think. Well written, but there's a great deal to it.

  12. ohhhh... now I see it "belief" not believe..

    Sarah, thank you. what really hurts here is that.... its a lot like my son's death. I did not cause it but I was a catalyst. (damn, must I include that)

    Em... if it makes you think then I feel good about that. especially YOU.

  13. perfect song... annie says a lot of things best ~
    ~laura xx

  14. I wish none of you read it until now... because more truth spills out. I continue to tweak and with that comes a profound release.

  15. It's hard to read. Not just because of the misspellings, but because of the pain that oozes onto the page.

    I received a letter like that once, it tore me up because the spelling just amplified the pain in the words I read.

  16. Wow. What an amazing story, wonderfully told. Thank you!

  17. Go for it. Don't be a 160 virgin.

  18. Nice Shannon. Of course the story has its sadness, but what impresses me is how you chose to interpret this chapter of your life, and his. I think everyone can be our teacher, if we let them. You learned and practiced true friendship, compassion, understanding, non-judgment - which was all about love.

  19. Thank you Talli and Monkey and Myrna and all of you.... and yes, Myrna - you are sooo right... everyone can be our teacher!


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison