Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Me and Mr. Phillips

This story picks up after King and Queen and Why endsChester and I sizzle before we rocket, and agree that we are better off as friends.  

Me and Mr. Phillips 

I am barely 16 when I meet Rick. I lie to my mother about an urgent Girl Scout meeting and instead, sit pretty in the back seat of my best friends, boyfriends car - a 1969 Lemans blue, 4-speed, Chevy Camaro convertible. It has a white soft-top, two wide, white stripes down the hood, and pristine, pearl white leather interior. Damn, that car is pretty.

We are headed to a drag race. His opponent drives a plum purple, Plymouth Duster with a black hard top. It is jacked up high in the back, has open headers, and in my opinion, it's ugly.

It is summer and I am shivering. I stand in the shadow of my best friend and watch her kiss her gallant boyfriend good luck. They are racing title for title and I am urgently trying to figure out how we are going to get home if he doesn't pull off a win.

I am focused on the piercing sound and smell of dueling, high powered engines, and the sick feeling in my stomach as they peal down the road.

When it is over, the Camaro comes in a distant second. The winner approaches us and says, "Keep your car, I'll take the girl." To my surprise, he is pointing at me.

It feels like a scene from a movie. Boy wants girl, boy gets girl. Only he is no boy. He is brazen and tenacious. At 20, it is clear to me that Rick is a man.

I decline giving him my number but my best friend gives him my name. He knocks on my door the following day, with a single red rose in his hand.

Our courtship is fast and furious. Our game plan is simple - I will get pregnant on purpose. It is the only way my father will sign the parental consent forms - legal requirements for a minor to marry in the state of Pennsylvania.

After the papers are signed and before our wedding, we move into a trailer Rick rented deep in the countryside. His best friend Alex, lives across the road along with his bride, Debbie. They are childhood sweethearts. She was their high schools Homecoming Queen and he, her only prince. She is tall, thin, blond, and gorgeous. I hate her.

A week before our wedding, Rick and Alex go hunting. I am home cleaning when I begin hemorrhaging. We had yet to hook up the phone, and Rick took our only car. I am overcome with fear when I pound on Debbie's door - begging for help. I have no idea what is happening, all I know is that I am in terrible pain. Debbie leaves a note on her kitchen table before driving me 45 minutes to the nearest hospital.  

Get Rick 
at hospital 
with Shannon

I am in the recovery room by the time Rick arrives. I wake to find him kneeling beside me. His hands cup my hands. His downward gaze weighted in guilt and sorrow. 

We cry for a long time after that. 

It is the first day of spring when we marry, in the little white church at the bottom of the hill - a short walk from his parents house. Here, Rick swears he will love me forever and I believe him.

Rick is more present in my life than my father has ever been. He is gentle, nurturing and devoted.

To make certain I attend high school, Rick buys me my first car and teaches me how to drive.  It is an orange, Ford Pinto station wagon with wood-grain on the side.

Later that summer, I am driving windy roads with my windows rolled down and my radio up high - wearing nothing but a rainbow striped bikini. A police car pulls me over. I am ordered to exit the vehicle and after a brief search, accused of being a communist.

"Why do you think I'm a communist?" I ask.

The officer points to the upside-down red, white and blue,"USA 1" Chevy license plate on the front bumper of my car. This is Ricks way of expressing his disdain for the baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet brand.  

"My husband can't stand Chevy's" I explain. "Says they're nothing but a pile of shit."
"Really....who's your husband?" asks the officer. 
"Rick Phillips," I tell him, with a smile full of pride.  
"Ricky's your husband? He's a great guy. Well then, we'd better let you go. We don't want Ricky wondering where you are."

Everyone knew Rick. Everyone respected Rick. And I felt like I had struck gold.

Rick was the first man that cooked a meal for me. And he was the first man I cooked a meal for.

Rick taught me how to fish - which meant more than just catching a fish. He made me hook the worm, hold the fish in my bare hands, and remove my catch - even if it swallowed the bait.

Rick taught me how to play cards - how to bluff and when to bet it all.

Rick taught me patience, how to sit in silence, how to breath deeply, and how to appreciate simple moments.

Rick taught me kindness. He was considerate, generous, and loyal. He defined what a good man meant. Because of him I expected these qualities in all men, later realizing they were few and far in-between.

Rick was a good husband. I was not a good wife. As much as he wanted me to stay, he knew I would leave him. I wanted to see the world and he was comfortable in his back yard.

We lived together for less than two years but we stayed married for almost twelve. Our deal was simple - we'd leave things as they were until the next big catch came along. The time it took to finalize a divorce would give us enough time to make certain it was the right choice.

I was 4 months pregnant when I called him - the same as I was when we lost our child. I had no intention of getting remarried but I knew I owed him an explanation. Rick was still, legally, my husband.

After a long drive into the countryside, we parked in a desolate baseball field where Rick offered to raise my child as his own. "Come home," he said. His eyes focused on mine. I could feel the pulse of a full moon. "I'll make a wonderful life for us," he promised, and I believed him.

I did not go home to Rick instead, determined to raise the child on my own, settled in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Eventually my mother persuaded me to contact Terry, the father of my unborn child. "He has a right to know," she said. He was living in Southern Florida at the time and was not happy to hear the news. Towards the end of my pregnancy he moved to Pennsylvania and we agreed to raise our child together.

I went into labor at the tail end of Valentine's Day, while watching the Johnny Carson show.  We borrowed my mothers car and drove through a snow storm to reach the nearest hospital. It was an hours drive across icy, back country roads. Once there, my labor stopped. When it didn't progress after twenty-four hours, I was induced. My son, Kerry Ryan Magann was born on February 16, 1979.

Filling out the birth certificate was... complicated.
Mother:  Shannon Kennedy Phillips
Married:  yes 
Age: 19

Father:  Terence Allen Magann 
Married: no 
Age: 31

Rick was the first to remarry. I never met his second wife. I wouldn't see him again until 1997. By then he was single again. I was in town for my 20th High school reunion. We bumped into each other at a bar where his brother Paul was playing the guitar. Rick and I talked for hours in the parking lot. We were honest about ourselves and about the mistakes we made along the way. We cried about our unborn child - Ricks only child.  I asked him to stay with me. To sit in the car with me. To hold me. But instead he left me, shaking.

I wouldn't see him again until the summer of 2009. He had bought his parents house - just up the hill from the little church where we married. He was happy, he was in love, and the object of his affection - his girlfriend, Phyllis - was at his side.

It was their families annual, Forth of July party. I showed up with Miss Lucy - my 5 pound shi-tzu, and a big smile. I know I was invited but I'm not certain if Rick knew I was coming.

Again, it felt like a scene from a movie. His country cozy home looked exactly as I remembered it. Still vibrant and full of life - only the color had changed. True to form, Rick was surrounded in loyalty, laughter and love.

Alex, forever his right hand man, was by his side. Mocha, his chocolate lab, was at his feet.  Phyllis was gracious and attentive to everyone, including me. His nieces and nephews were playing baseball in the backyard and everyone wanted Uncle Ricky on their side.

The only thing I remember Rick saying to me that day is,"Tell your dog to stop chasing my rooster or I'll sick my cat on him."

I laughed. We all laughed. Rick looked me in the eyes and smiled. 

Rick died of a massive heart attack a year and a half later.  He was 56 years old.

The night before he died I dreamt we were together again - in the parking lot outside the bar.  I thanked him for all he had done for me and then I hugged him, hard. It was a long, deliberate embrace. I could feel his tears on the nape of my neck and I knew not to let go. 

Later that day, in the classified section of the local paper, I spotted a 1972 purple Duster - in mint condition.  It was listed at $25,995.00.  What a deal.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011


This is one of those silly stories that I say I'm going to write, but never get around to it.

A day or two ago, I left it as a comment on Monkey Man's blog. I've tweaked it so I can retell it here. Thanks Monkey Man for pulling it out of me.

I live in a condo complex composed of 6 units. We all have sliding glass doors that lead to a balcony that overlooks a river.  On the opposite side of the river is a restaurant housed inside a converted felt mill. 

view of restaurant from my deck 

One lovely spring day my neighbor, a single man in his late 20's, invites two girls over to his condo. He attempts to WOW them by showing off his new rifle.  It is a hunting rifle with a super cool scope - a laser scope.

After he shows them how cool his super cool rifle is, he locks it inside a gun safe. 

I am outside, on my deck, enjoying a leisurely bowl of wine when I see a SWARM of men, dressed in black - helmets on, guns drawn.

I almost spill my wine.  

(monkey dramatization of what happened next...) 

They surround my neighbors unit. Some scale the walls and leap onto his deck. Others are on the roof.  All at once they burst into my neighbors condo, knock him to the floor and arrest him. They then parade him out, in handcuffs, and stuff him into the back of an armored truck (okay, it was a squad car, but the armored truck makes for a better story).

Despite the fact that everything is in order - his rifle is licensed and safely stored - he is charged with endangering the welfare of his female guests (or something along those lines). 

But he, my neighbor, was not the "danger" - his rifle was not loaded and there was no ammunition in the house. 

Because my neighbor foolishly chose to WOW his lady friends with his rifle, while INSIDE his house, it was his actions that caused the SWAT team to arrive - with their loaded, fully automatic weapons drawn. That is what puts the girls in danger.

Is it just me or is that NUTS. 

Little did my neighbor know that at the exact moment he was showing his female friends his rifle, a Marine (recently home from Afghanistan), was eating dinner in the restaurant across the river.  Halfway through his linguini, he notified police that there was a man, on his balcony, pointing a riffle at him.  

My neighbor was not on his balcony. I was on my balcony. 

I will admit, my wine glass was LARGE, but in no way did it resemble a rifle. A pistol perhaps, but not a rifle. 


Want even MORE monkey? 
See Monkey Man, a wildly entertaining blog.
He's "lost somewhere between knuckle dragging and upright"

For Monkey Man's post 
that fueled this post 
click HERE

Friday, November 25, 2011


Due to a hurricane, I was two days late for Burning Man when I arrived at Westchester County Airport.

My camping gear was already there - I shipped it out weeks a head of time.  
My giant VooDude doll was already there - I shipped him out weeks a head of time. 
A dear friend of mine (a first time Burner) was already there - waiting for me in Reno.

(7 ft tall voodude doll) 

To aid in efficiency, I packed all my costumes and Burning Man survival items into one giant duffle bag.  

The luggage store warned me that although it was labeled a "body bag" it was not large enough to carry a set of golf clubs, or a cello, or for that matter, an actual adult sized body.  

Good to know. 

What I didn't know was the cost to check an oversized, overweight item. 

Take a guess...

What does American Airlines charge for 
overweight (by 7 lbs) 
oversized (by 4 inches) 

If you guessed...


you guessed wrong. 

The cost to ship an 
body bag is


Here is where it gets silly...

If there were golf clubs in my body bag the cost would have been $150.00
If I was shipping a musical instrument, such as a cello, the cost would have been $150.00 
 A bike, $150.00 
A hand glider, $150.00
A javelin, $150.00
Scuba gear (with tank), $150.00 
A surfboard, kite board, wake board, wave ski, $150.00
Actual body in body bag... that, I'm not sure of.

I tried to buy a seat for my body bag, but the flight was sold out. 
I tried to get a later flight but none were available.
It didn't matter if I took 7 lb. of stuff out, the bag was still oversized. 
I had no choice but to pay the fee. 
So I did. 

But Monkey is no fool, after Burning Man I didn't lug my body bag back to American Airlines - instead, it went in a campmates pickup truck bound for southern California with the understanding that I would have it picked up by a carrier service. 

UPS won't pick up items that aren't properly boxed but FedEx does. Because its luggage, they simply put a tag on it and ship it back. 

The pickup was scheduled for the following day. The package was scheduled to arrive 5 to 10 days later.  

According to my tracking number, my body bag is on its way home. 
According to my campmate, my body bag is sitting on his front porch. 

I feel like a little kid at Christmas! 
What is FedEx bringing me? 

Take a WILD guess.

I'll update you when the package arrives.
Winner gets a kitten.

One kitten per household. 
Offer good while supplies last.

p.s. I'm not feeling sorry for myself today. 
Thank you for allowing me to feel safe enough to vent. 
And thank you for your kind, heartfelt comments. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I am the Turkey

I have a mother.  Her name is Joan.

My mother married a man named Leonard. They had a daughter. They named her Lenore.

My mother married another man, his name was Lawrence. They had one son and two daughters. They named them Kerry, Colleen and Shannon.

Kerry died shortly after his birth. My mother did not go to his funeral.

My mother lived with a man long enough that it was considered common law. They had a son. They named him Mark.

I called my mother today, on the eve of Thanksgiving. I called her today because tomorrow is all about football. My mother loves football. I love football.

My mother lives in Vermont.
My sister Lenore lives in Vermont.
My sister Colleen lives in Vermont.
My brother Mark lives in Connecticut.
I live in Connecticut.

Today when I called my mother, I asked her if she was cooking.
My mother is not cooking.
My mother is going to Mark's house.
My sister Lenore is going to Mark's house.
My sister Colleen is going to Mark's house.
Everyone is going to Mark's house.
But me.

Today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, my mother let it slip that Mark lives in Vermont.
Where and when did Mark move to Vermont?
My mother will not tell me.

My mothers family will be together on Thanksgiving.

And I am now, finally, astutely aware that I am on my own.

My mother did not go to my son's funeral.  
My mother will tell you, "I don't go to funerals."

 They won't see this because they don't read me.
And you will never hear me speak of them again.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Despite the fact that we had NOTHING in common - other than we both made our dramatic debut in 1959 - for most of my prepubescent years, Barbie and I were best friends.

I made certain she had everything she ever wanted - a trunk full of Fashion Avenue outfits, perfectly scaled accessories, orange sherbet convertible, and a two story dream house.

Everything but Ken. I never let her near him. I was determined to keep Barbie emotionally detached and co-dependent.

Despite the lack of male attention and a possible diet pill addiction, she never aged. Fifty years later, she still had the same tiny waist, perky breasts and buxom bottom.

Yes, it’s true she drove a glitzy car and lived in a pretentious house, but it was her flawless, youthful complexion and toned torso that I envied.

And so, two months shy of my 50th birthday, I elected to undergo plastic surgery.

Instead of doing online research, I turned to my back country clients for their personal recommendation. If he was good enough for the wife of a man whose year end bonus exceeded eight million, then he was good enough for me.

One phone call and four personal referrals later, I was sitting almost pretty on the Upper East Side in a prominent Park Avenue, flawlessly decorated, doctor’s office.

“How long will I be out of work?” I asked.

“No more then ten days”

“Will you put that in writing?”

“It’s in the literature”

It was. So was the cost. Mini face lift, upper lip dermabrasion, tear drop shaped saline implants; $42,000. Add to that private nursing and overnight hotel accommodations and we’re tipping the scale at 45 k.

“Why can’t I have silicone?”

“Its not recommended for women your age”

Knowing I couldn’t have them only made me want them more.

"What about a breast lift?" I asked.

If he hadn't explained the procedure - how he'd need to remove my nipples - I would have jumped at the chance to have my breasts in the same spot as they were in my 20's.

"You may loose senstion in your nipples" he added.

"Enough already," I shouted. "I'll settle for the mini lift and dermabrasion." I conceded.

"You'll have to complete your physical two weeks prior to surgery.  And you'll need to discontinue alcohol 10 days prior."

"Does wine count?" I asked

"Yes," he answered adding a stern glare.

I arrived the morning of my surgery with a confession. Yes, I'd gone for my physical, completed the paperwork and paid my bill in full, but the night before I self medicated with  a bowl of chardonnay instead of the valium he had prescribed.

"I had a glass of wine last night," I confessed.
"So did I," he added.
"How much did you have?"  I asked
"How much did YOU have?" he asked.

Four hours later, I was wheeled into the recovery room. It was here, during these twilight moments, that I knew something was wrong.

Because the nurse’s preoperative instructions failed to mention a catheter, I was convinced the peculiar vaginal sensations I was experiencing corroborated my worse only to death fear - that I had been sexually violated.

Under my post-op hazed, I began an imaginary lineup of my possible assailants.

The anesthesiologist is most certainly gay. The nurse is too obvious. It must have been the doctor!  

“I need to speak to the doctor right away?” I yelled.

“He can't now, he’s very busy.”

“I bet he's busy," I added, "busy molesting patients!” 

When he showed up 20 minutes later I could tell he was overly focused on my left cheek.

“What is it?” I asked

“It's nothing to worry about, it’s just a little blue.”

“It’s a hematoma, isn’t it!” I yelped.

“No...it’s NOT a hematoma” he stressed.

Two weeks later I was back on the table, this time for a "simple office procedure" to correct my "mild" hematoma.

My first mistake was underestimating the complexity of the term, “office procedure.”

My second mistake was failing to follow the preoperative instructions by not taking the mega dose of valium prescribed by my doctor. My ill-equipped, irrational thought process was -  I’m calm, I'm strong willed, I can handle this simple “office procedure”.

The local, as it turns out, was excruciatingly painful.  It involved numerous injections inside and surrounding my left ear.

I envisioned this office procedure as a tiny slit, followed by gentle endoscopic suction, and  closing with a stitch or two.

The nonfiction version was revolting. His incision stretched from the base of my lobe past the upper crest of my ear. Although I was numb, I could feel and worse, envision, each step of the procedure.

Strapped to an elevated, 45 degree angle operating table and frozen in fear, I felt the coolness of the surgical steel clamps lifting my skin and listened as the aspirating sound of a pulsating hose sucked away my coagulated clots. Even the gentle glide of 15 gauge sutures resting upon my cheek grabbed my attention.

But the worst by far was the full body jolt created when the tip of an electrified probe cauterized my blood vessels - like the zap of a heart defibrillator.

When the nurse asked if she should pump in some soothing music I was quick to reply, “Yes, anything but country.”

Somehow my swift dismissal of cowboy classics eclipsed my disdain of Pop and Hair Band music infamous of the 80’s. And so, when my 30 something nurse tuned her dial I was flooded by Madonna’s morose performance of “Borderline,” Abba’s “Take a Chance on Me,” Queen’s “I Want It All,” Foreigners “I Want To Know What Love Is,” Kiss’s “Doctor Love” and my absolute worst favorite, Donna Summers “I Will Survive.”

And since I was a captive audience, I relinquished my repugnance and mentally transformed myself onto a Broadway stage. Here, bathed in the imaginary glow of theatrical lighting, I performed a brilliantly choreographed dance entwined with grandiose leaps, never ending spirals, deep body bends, and tenderly cupped hand extended glides. My only visible expression was the nervous wiggle of my toes and deep, deliberate breath.

When it was over I reclined in a dimly lit, floral schemed recovery room; eager for the comforts of home.

As promised, during the previously discussed and punctually noted recovery period, my husband called. I assured him I was fine, that the worst was over, and that I was capable of heading home on my own. And so, armed with a mound of ultra plush tissues, a plastic container of ice, and a fist full of well chilled gauze pressed against my incision lined blue swollen left cheek, I eagerly exited the office.

No sooner had I reached the bottom step of my doctor’s sophisticated Park Avenue suite when a well fashioned woman walking two highly spirited standard poodles eagerly approached. In the eyes of an under trained, overly ravenous pooch, my container of ice must have resembled a bowl of kibble. Their swift, grandiose leap resulted in an eruption of ice, which prompted my ill timed slip and unguarded crash to the ground.

My painful cry of "OHHH" was acknowledge by the warm wet lick of disappointed chomps and the gentle discouragement of their misguided best friend. "Fi Fi, Bo Bo - leave the lady alone she just saw the ….dermatologist." Apparently dermatologist is Upper East side code for plastic surgeon since the doctors brass plated signage only exposed his name.

By then it was about 1:00 pm, prime time on Park Ave and there were no open cabs in sight. I gallantly crossed at the walkway and headed downtown toward Grand Central Station. Despite my crippled demeanor, it was impossible not to notice how disinterested by-passers were.

When my husband called a second time and I greeted him with a frustrated "FUCKING NEW YORKERS!" he instinctively sensed my distress and bolted from his 57th office.

The hunt was like a scene out of a Woody Allen movie, as we waywardly wandered the bustling streets in a frenzied attempt to find each other. By the time we reached opposite sides on 62nd Street, his frantic eyes mirrored mine. Without waiting for the ‘walking man’ flash, he darted in my direction. And then, with super husband powers, he hailed a cab and a few bumpy clicks on the meter later, we were safe inside Grand Central Station.

Arm and arm, he walked me through the center corridor with its sea of determined rail riders, down the staircase to the lower level, onto the platform and into the safety of the train’s first open compartment. Then, with his classic, cool demeanor, he tossed me a twenty and said “take a cab, don’t drive home” to which I replied “thanks for making me look like a hooker.”

I would have laughed if it wasn’t so painful and he tried his hardest not to.

Halfway home I remembered I had brought my previously prescribed post surgery painkillers. I quickly opened the vile, noticed the enormous horse pill sized capsule and realized I had no water to wash it down. But I am, if nothing else, clever. I poured the remaining pills into my pocket, dipped the now empty vile into the half melted ice and swiftly washed my pain killer down.

Although the train was packed, my act went unnoticed. It was not until the remaining water spilled and then traveled sideways towards my oblivious neighbor, that my actions created a disapproving glare.

The journey home was bumpier than most. There would be many more spills along the way. I arrived at the Greenwich station disheveled and weary. A wafer thin woman dressed in a chic Theory suit, fuck me pumps, and Jackie O shades, strutted ahead of me and stole my cab.

I had no strength left to challenge her. I stood front line and center stage at the taxi stand; in full view of a fury of commuters who seemed mildly amused by my distress. After several minutes the cab door opened and Jimmy, my valiant driver, offered to escort me home.

“Where to Miss?”

I don’t’ know what I found more pleasing, that I was finally on my way home or that he called me “Miss”.

Later, when he asked how “I waz doin,”I tearfully recited the misguided escapades of my otherwise glorious spring day.

By the time we reached my destination I had reduced my mound of aloe laced, Park Avenue tissues to a mere shred.

“Make sure someone takes care of you,” he said and with that I tossed him my husband’s twenty dollar bill and called it a day.

Green Monkey Tales © 2009 Shannon E. Kennedy

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

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison