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Thunder Pie | Summer Day / Don’t Go Away

I have arrived at an inn along the road where the weary traveler can rest. And the summer is spreading out upon the unfamiliar land.

We drive down to Raystown Lake, me and Arle and Milla and Piper. It’s one of those massive impoundments, a trillion acres of flooded forests and farms. On the weekends in the summer, the place is infested with boaters and beach people. Motorboats hit top speeds far off in the distance as the poor kids piss by the shore, bouncing around in the wavy wakes of the better off. But during the week, things are different. It’s way calmer. There’s hardly anyone around when we arrive. A few scattered families of people who are camping in one of the campgrounds or whatever.

I breathe in the rich summer air. Well, technically speaking it’s still late spring, but that sounds idiotic in June. We need to revisit some of this shit. Summer should officially start the minute the kids get out of school. Seasons should be announced as changing when I fucking say they are changing.

The mountains rising above the man-made lake, they’re a deep, mesmerizing emerald through my cheap shades. There is a power line cut rolling down the entire span in one place far off and it appears to me to be a kind of slide: an attraction, if you will, where people could stand atop the ridge staring at the impossibly steep slope at their feet before they lay down and start rolling. We’ve all rolled down a grassy hill on a bluebird day. There’s something wild and free about it that transcends the rest of our humdrum everyday motions. Within that sort of tumbling, there lives the escaping spirit of true inner selves, I figure. Down in our deep, deep guts, untapped and spoiling, sits the ghost of our younger selves/ the electrified motherfucker we used to be when we were knee-high to those long lost smoking aunts. Free that kid and you free yourself, hoss.

But it’s easier said than done. And you’ll more than likely die in the process. Still, as I stand there in my black Merle Haggard T-shirt/ black cut-offs/ and cumbersome, moronic work boots, my body poised on the scrappy stretch of sand that passes just fine for a beach here in rural Pennsylvania, I envision the first moments of the roll being something both life-affirming and life-changing at the same exact time. The blur of the commencement/ my heart rapidly firing up/ the spin and toss and spin and toss and spin and toss of the world moving by/ rushing by/ heaving by with intense speed now as I feel these old bones of mine leaving my control/ ignoring myself for the first time in so long all in the name of something unachievable/ something timeless and powerful that does indeed exist/ but you know.

The price is high, man. You roll down this particular hill and it goes on and on forever. You roll over angry wasps and jagged rocks. You roll over nettle bushes and old arrowheads. By the time you reach the half way point, your entire body is flashing like a cartoon log underneath Elmer Fudd, and he’s dancing for his life… trying in vain to manage his equilibrium/ to match physical wits with this cartoonist’s long ago cruelty. You roll past black bear cubs eating berries in the shade. You roll past two hikers smoking a joint and French kissing the hits into each other’s skulls. Both men. Both happy. You roll on by an eagle in a tree and he watches you go/ no expression but that studious irked look of academic disdain that bald eagles just fucking OWN in this world.

You are moving so swiftly now. 40 mph maybe. Maybe more. The bruises on your skin, you can feel them popping through. There is a line you can cross: with any so-called ‘medical emergency’ where, and I’m hoping this is never your experience, mind you, but it does stand to pass that there is a moment that lays out there: more or less: waiting on you to cross over it with that unapologetic way you especially have of moving forward with something (sometimes maybe) even though you understand, deep down inside, that you might very well be fucking up bad here.

Faster falls the stumbling rat/ Quicker jumps the mumbling cat.

You pass over a long fat yellow-phase eastern rattlesnake and it sticks to you like the tail on a dog/ flapping in the ever-changing wind/ hollow fangs sunk deep into your assfat like two Everest climber’s pick-axes right before the very end. You/me/whoever is taking the ride/ we look a sight spinning like this/ rattlesnake flag waving/ sucking under the vehicle/ popping back out again just to disappear and reappear in a series of stop-gap stills that boggle the minds of the chipmunks and crows who stand watching the daring fool rolling down the mountain to a certain death.

The kids are in the water now, up to their pale calves in the balmy lake.

I sigh.

I guess I have been daydreaming again.


Thank God, you know?

Thank you, oh heavenly ice cream truck driver for smearing melted Bomb Pop up and down my cheeks so that the buzzing bees come lick me.

So that their precious bee spit brings me the visions.


Arle and me sit in our low rider beach chairs, watch Milla and Piper splash around in the clear shallows. A few other kids are scattered here and there but for the most part everyone seems a bit weary of each other. Not in true form, but more like: I can sense every recently de-schooled mind not necessarily ready to plunge back in to the whole youth on youth thing just yet. I get it. Kids need to breathe that shit out a little. Other kids, as compelling as they can seem, are also bona fide works of complicated art. And not everyone is ready for that museum the minute they step out of the nine-month gallery, you know? A person can only roll for so long in a world of crayon & snot self portraits. Eventually they need to run from all that. That’s what summer vacation is all about, if you ask me. This little notion, being introduced to the assembly line’s newest members, that you might be able to find peace of mind if you turn off everything you have been told and taught and just stand- alone- in a field or a lake- and smile/ with a Popsicle, as you piss out a long, tall gas station Sprite.

The essence of the scene here is a relaxed paradise. It’s unexpected, I have to admit. I mean, I don’t really run around town thinking that I’m going to ever stumble into some kind of ethereal middle Earth where I might just be overcome by the cloudy sky and the cuts of sun and the shimmering vastness of endless upside down sky and all the reflections of birds and trees and boats and children that it offers/ like chalk art on the street. Like your name on the envelope of a a handwritten letter.

It could be the medicine change, I tell myself. The third med in a couple months. Try them all, I told myself. Try them until you find that mystically slippery optimum bandwidth. Let’s dial shit in, I told my nurse lady. I want to dial shit in so I can roll down the hillside and dig it for once.

But there is always the possibility that this one doesn’t work any more or better than the others. I could end up spaced out again. I could end up with a head full of side effects or maybe even worse. The risk doesn’t scare me though. Why should it? I’ve been around the block. I’ve seen the walls of the Roman Empire spilling down into a lush English valley and I’ve smoked cigarettes out the backstage door at the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve known pain there ain’t no words for. I’ve felt joy that must’ve been born up in the stars. The great reckoning has been happening to me for a long time coming now. I’ve been high on either a drug or a carb or a book or a redhead for damn near as long as I can remember.

Women want me. Fish fear me.

Arle shows back up at our blanket with two heaping cardboard boats filled with hot french fries and tepid ketchup. They taste like salted heaps of mountain as I lay them across my lips, feel them with my tongue.

Maybe I am experiencing the artificial effects of a man-made drug around the unnatural shores of a man-made lake.

It doesn’t matter, I tell myself.

I have arrived, I say inside.

You’ve arrived where, dude?, I ask myself.

I have arrived, I respond, to an inn along the road where the weary traveler can rest. And the summer is spreading out upon the unfamiliar land.

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Serge Bielanko lives in small-town Pennsylvania with an amazing wife who’s out of his league and a passel of exceptional kids who still love him even when he’s a lot. Every week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War and whatever else is rattling around his noggin.