When I hear that whistle blowin’

Train01a.jpg picture by pemerytx 


“McCauley!  Listen up…”


McCauley turned his back.  You done lost me on the last three syllables, you sorry bastard, he didn’t say out loud.  As the belligerent, no-account son of a son of a bitch, he’d learned to skip the vocals.  But the back-turning?  A long, low and satisfying yeah.  Oh yeah.  The indescribable juiced-up high of 190-proof rebellion.  The big Fuck you.  Whether the lack of backtalk took some edge off the repercussions or not, didn’t matter, he could deal with whatever.  Any psycho shit or violence?  Bring it on.


McCauley lit a cigarette and lay down on the bed.  He put one arm behind his head and let his eyes glaze over.  He brought the cigarette to his mouth and dragged in hard; the smoke drew in easy like the hardness of his existence.   He held it in the blackness of his lungs while the drug of it took effect, until too many thoughts started to show up and ask too many questions.  Harder was easier.  Another thing he’d learned.  Just breathe in the satisfaction of it, spend it hard, use it up, then blow that shit out.


“…because this is important, McCauley!”


McCauley narrowed his eyes and focused on the dark shape doing all the talking, all the blathering, the wasting of breath, the wasting of time.  The world is full of individuals telling you what’s important.  To them.  And all the listening up to all their threats and promises of doom and happiness that will come to pass or not come to pass if ignored are a waste of time.  Threats and promises from people are lies.  Yet another thing he’d learned.  Way early on.  Can’t anything hurt you or help you if you don’t want it to.


“McCauley!  Accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior or burn in Hell!”


McCauley smiled.  He loved it when he got to the supposed saints and pissed them off to the point of exposing their impatience, their hate, their anger, their godforsaken humanness.  And this one was easy, just a baby, fresh out of the seminary, looked like.  McCauley reached over the side of the bed and ground out his cigarette on the floor.  Go fuck yourself, he didn’t say aloud.  It wasn’t his fault he was born a sick, inbred, abused fuck, a problem to society, another one of the scourge to be stopped on the way to someone’s idea of Utopia.


“Naw, Pastor,” McCauley said.  “There ain’t no such things as what you’re talkin’ ‘bout.  This is a world of good and evil.  Folks like you need folks like me to point up the diff’rence…”


“That is not God’s pla…”


McCauley cut the pastor off, “And then one of your kind always gotta go fuck it up and screw someone else’s wife or kid.”  McCauley busted out with a laugh that turned to a snarl.  “And when they come for me tomorrow, this cell won’t be cold for two seconds ‘fore another man what done somethin’ wrong to someone else will be occupyin’ it.  All that I just said?  Proof that whatever’s at the root of evil’s just as productive as it ever was.”


The baby pastor was beside himself. “Go to Hell then!” he yelled, eyes wide.  Then he realized what he’d said and done and you could see the gears of his brain going crazy with whether he should apologize and bear with or run away just now or forever.


“Father, it is finished,” McCauley whispered and lit another cigarette.





“The people we think are cool people are just doin’ what they have to do.  Don’t go thinkin’ that means they have it easy.”  Anonymous


Train03.jpg picture by pemerytx


Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” lyrics


I hear the train a comin’; it’s rollin’ ‘round the bend,

And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when.

I’m stuck in Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin’ on.

But that train keeps rollin’ on down to San Antone.


When I was just a baby, my mama told me, “Son,

Always be a good boy; don’t ever play with guns.”

But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

When I hear that whistle blowin’ I hang my head and cry.


I bet there’s rich folks eatin’ in a fancy dining car.

They’re prob’ly drinkin’ coffee and smokin’ big cigars,

Well I know I had it comin’; I know I can’t be free,

But those people keep a movin’, and that’s what tortures me.


Well, if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine,

I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line,

Far from Folsom Prison, that’s where I want to stay,

And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away




Train tracks through Folsom, CA from http://k41.pbase.com/o4/78/410678/1/64745206.Ebf7sqr0.4.jpg


Johnny at Folsom from http://www.liberalstreetfighter.com/ee/images/uploads/869a1490-6ff5-45cd-90a3-bbfa8e73e674.jpeg


Image hosting by Photobucket


Missalister’s “When I hear that whistle blowin’” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#153 – Listen up because this is important.”  Click here for more on prompt #153 from other Sunday Scribblings.

19 responses to “When I hear that whistle blowin’

  1. Good evening, Muchness: Ah, the exuberance of Baby’s “Go to Hell then!” Those wide eyes, LIFE exploding into baby body, even if LIFE brings with it some surprising theological, ahem, unravelings. I was reading this evening about how, even if the disciples were clueless, the demons ALWAYS knew what was what: such is McCauley’s acuity.

    No doubt you have seen Duvall’s masterpiece “The Apostle,” and the glorious scene at the picnic when Billy Bob shows up with his bulldozer to take that damn church down. The exuberant “I know you” in EF’s eyes as BB is revving up the machine. Let’s hope Baby felt McCauley’s backhanded anointing and lived on to feel the tiger in his eyes for years to come…

    Sail on, sister.

  2. WOW. I think when J Cash sang to those boys that day he did so with a powerful love that was honest and real, and the healing that comes with that kind of acceptance is as spiritual as any preacher could hope for. Forgiveness can be a difficult virtue – acceptance may be the more powerful force behind it. Is that what McCauley meant when he whispered ‘it is finished’?

  3. There is so much to like here, so many golden nuggets of description and angst and woe and…cockieness. Good stuff, beginning to end.

  4. You are a brilliant writer and a compassionate one as well. Johnny Cash at Folsom prison is a well-chosen accompaniment to your story. And i like the opening photo of those endless train tracks.

  5. I don’t know if you or anyone else felt it, but the first impression in the very first paragraph was that of Marv (Mickey Rourke) from Sin City (“This is blood for blood and by the gallon. These are the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They’re back! There’s no choice left. And I’m ready for war.”).

    I hate people who preach and I hate people who think they are living in Utopian world when the fact is that their lives no less shittier than than those of the very same people they preach to. Man by nature thinks affirmative of his actions and derogatorily about those of others. The day you realize that folly, it is smooth sailing from then. But if wishes were horses…

    (and yes, still love that song)

  6. Miss Alister,

    I always look forward to visiting your nook in the web.

    It’s a literary haven run by a great intelligence and wealth of experience and creativity. This is obvious with every read and every visit.

    And this is greatly appreciated, and boggled over.

    I don’t know which god you prepare your literary libations for, or why, but they pour out so smooth, I am always happy to stay and sup on the splashes that reach my screen.

    I never have much to say, which is interesting (to me only), but it strikes me that there is nothing much I would want to comment on. I just feel so replete with your vision after I have imbibed it, and like a man, I want to roll over sleep for a while, to savour its all-consuming magnificence.

    And, there are only so many times that I can say how great something is before it risks sounding trite.

    Though it’s true.

    I met you through 3WW, I think, and I would be tired by the time I visited, and you are so worth visiting. So I e-stalked you, put in my reader scope and dropped your site into the following list.

    Good decision, too.

    Today I have something to say.

    A query maybe.

    Did you mean 100 proof? Did you mean only 50% rebellion? Because proof was proof for the sailors that the rum they received, as part payment of wages, in kind, was not watered down too much.

    The proof was that the sailors could pour it on gunpowder and still light the gunpowder on fire with one flick of a spark from a flint.

    But 100% alcohol, though not achievable in practice due to physical chemistry peculiarities in the distillation process, is 200 proof.

    So I stopped at that sentence, in today’s post, because I am sure that you didn’t mean only 50% rebellion. You might have stopped a few other physical chemists, too. A thriving web demographic, I am sure…

    OK. I wince a little at having written this. But, you are so fantastic when you write, and denotative and connotative errors are not to be expected from you. So I found myself compelled to ask.

    And you are a great creator or worlds. I dislike gushing, which is why I do not comment often.


    PS I read what you write, and wonder (a) why I bother putting out my bits onto the web and (b) why you do it for free. Go figure.

  7. Whoa. This is WAY off the beaten path for you (at least, how *I* think of you!) — and I like it. I like how it unfolds, how it reveals itself layer by layer until we’ve got the whole picture. Yet we’re never frustrated with what little we know.

    And provocative, too. Go to Hell… is that something you want to say to a guy like McCauley. I mean, what if he does? Go to Hell, that is…

  8. You sure are offering up a feast for a lot of the senses~
    Your writing is strong, clean and so real I can taste it.
    Thanks for the J. Cash song and the track image is wonderful.

    A delightful stirring as always, Señor Paschal, and a perfect parallel drawn! What a masterpiece of a movie script, “The Apostle,” what inspiring performances, what a feeling it all leaves one with! The humanness, the blindness, the spiritual acuity all make me smile seeing the evidence of it everywhere and feeling the workings of it going on all around! Although I would say that it’s up to the reader to get a feel for McCauley as being good or evil, and to let that feeling lean them toward the McCauley shake-up either leading Baby out of or further into the pastorhood, I’ll let on my feelings in answer to Bass’ question. After that, I think I’ll sail on over to Netflix and put “The Apostle” in the queue for re-viewing : )


    I say Amen! to everything you wrote. When I was checking out the YouTube offerings, I saw and heard so much in that regard. The looks on the mens’ faces, on Johnny’s face, when he shook their hands on the way to the stage, when he got up on stage and asked them what they wanted to hear, when he sang as one of them knowing he was, that he was no better than them or anyone. He gave those guys the love and acceptance and the feeling they were part of something bigger than themselves, like we all want. Here’s a video I really dug: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M89c3hWx3RQ&feature=related . These humans are one and having fun.
    All that wasn’t in the forefront when McCauley’s little slice of life was unfolding, though. As I let the story go, I felt McCauley having the level of acuity that Paschal spoke of, having it as an emissary of an impartial God, as a knower, an observer of his role in this world as a flawed pawn. When McCauley whispered, “It is finished,” at the time it meant to me primarily that the baby pastor chaff had been separated from the wheat, and that baby would run scared and bawling from the ministry. It still means to me that McCauley, like Christ, was scheduled for execution, but now I like the idea of being open to the baby pastor catching further on fire for God, having this run-in with McCauley be a building block to his ultimate strength on the holy path.


    Well, alright! Three loves is a super-hot rating. I know you know how you can be going on and out pops some group of words that you just know is good. Like a song melody that’s one helluva hook. That’s one of the best things about sitting down to write, to see if anything good is gonna pop out : )


    I’ve given in to it. I’m virtually down south with these characters of late and just like they’re slow and smooth talkers in no rush, I’m in no rush to leave. Just like Kerouac’s “On the Road” gang at Old Bull Lee’s house outside of New Orleans, even though I know nothing’s forever, I feel like I could stay there forever : )


    Well look at this! When I finished this story I considered it just filler, but it’s getting a pleasing reception. And you top it. I’m going to print out this hard-earned genuine enthusiasm of yours, frame it, and hang it in my peripheral : )


    Thank you, Granny S : ) I ‘m so glad you enjoyed it. Johnny C is one of my favorite examples of the human/god mix, for the joy and the good he maybe didn’t try to bring and be but just did and was, and all of it amidst his particular struggles wrangling with the usual demons of drugs, alcohol, and wrong-for-him relationships.


    It is a really great song. And if you have time while you’re here, check out another favourite hit, the video link in my response to Bass. I got such a kick out of that. It’ll help you with your southern accent ; ) I love that accent. Spent many years down south absorbing it and the southern way. Like I was telling Tumblewords, I’m happy to be there in my head for however long : )


    Man, you are culturally way ahead of me! I’ve not read “Sin City” or seen the movie. But from your description I’m pleased that such a tough image came through to you. Of course now, after your mention of tough “Sin City” on top of tough “Sabbath’s Theater,” I’ve lost perspective, am beginning to think I’m turning into a candy ass. Are you getting tougher or am I getting softer? Which is it? And then you go and throw in that song. Seems you’re one who can take in the worst and best and come away affected deeply and well with a story to tell. Seems you can see a lot. I like that : )


    Ah! At last, then. A great pleasure : ) Although I think you’ve cast me in too bright a light! From inside me, it doesn’t look like what you say. Then I think, well if that’s what he feels, why not bask a little in it while he rolls over and goes to sleep! LOL!
    And oh! I’ve been to your site amidst your many entertaining words of knowledge and inspiring photographs, and I feel not a speck of doubt that you know proofs. You are 100% right that I slipped on that detail, and I love that you told me, and how you told me, so no wincing required! I think McCauley will be like 190-proof Everclear ; )
    You are college, you know it? Free college. You’re a flood of knowledge and your overflow needs a place to pool, hence your bits, your site ; ) I write for selfish reasons, for the drug of it, the high, and maybe my ego has something to do with it but you won’t hear that from li’l me ; ) I’m practicing. Practicing relaxing about the MiG so I can be high on 200-proof creative juice during as many of my waking hours as possible. Then what comes out might be worth money ; )
    Regardless, stalk on, e-stalker! After all, I’ve been to your site more than the one time I commented. Comment here when you wish to, as you did this day, and I’ll do the same at your college. Deal?


    Ha! Oh, you are good! Your feedback, was as meaty as McCauley and gives me a real clue. I appreciate that from you as always. And yeah! What if? Supremely bad news for Rev. Baby!


    It certainly seems a different message from the pure beauty of images and words at your place, but I would maintain that if you drilled down through the main course here, through the side dishes and pies and through to the bottom of the ice cream bucket, the essence of the thing would be the same : ) Glad you enjoyed the Cash! As I told Ms. Mood, if you have time you might get a kick out of the Cash link in my response to Bass above.

  10. this was terrific. such an original voice to it; add to that, the never-ending fight between good and evil but i think mcauley hit the nail on the head: “And then one of your kind always gotta go fuck it up and screw someone else’s wife or kid….And when they come for me tomorrow, this cell won’t be cold for two seconds ‘fore another man what done somethin’ wrong to someone else will be occupyin’ it. All that I just said? Proof that whatever’s at the root of evil’s just as productive as it ever was.”

    Brilliant piece of writing as your writing always is, Miss A.

  11. I’m with rebecca on this, definitely one of the greats this week; pulled me in from the moment McCauley turned his back and didn’t let up long after I’d absorbed his final rough whisper, “Father it is finished.” Just perfect.

    Love these voices you’ve been exploring lately: from here, looks like you’re ready to take off and run. Sure is fun to watch.

    Alright : )


    Hey, hey, Rebecca! You’re another gold seal on this deal : ) I’m glad and amused at the same time. Glad, since I thought this piece wasn’t worth shaking a stick at until the reviews started rolling in, and amused because isn’t that always the way? Always the way, the scuffing around in the gray, dimensionless nothingness of yourself, and the kicking up of a bright, shiny thing from not trying. You’re a great writer; you know what I mean. And you also know it doesn’t stop me from being thankful to you for your feedback and honored to be featured at the top, right of your topnotch site!
    I like what you’re doing with Genesis, btw. By the time Kirk Hammett showed up talking about implantation, I for sure knew why it was familiar to me, like the the humid night, the fan stirring the soupy air, the cicadas. That wind-up of yours that I read back when, it was so luscious and real and it got stuck in my head all connected to that abduction story idea of yours. The cicadas cutting the thick air with their racket. Good stuff : )


    Anno! I’m glad you made it over : ) Man, are we gonna have a lot of notes to compare when our schedules simmer down, if they do…probably not ‘til August for me.
    You always come to mind when I find myself in the middle of darkish stuff like this and I think, “I wonder if Anno will like it.” So! I’m glad you did : ) And I do feel ready to run, bygod! Maybe I didn’t need to fork over a small fortune for this class coming up. LOL! Nooo, it should only help…I hope… ; )

  13. This is some really great writing Miss A!
    I’ve been back to visit McCauley quite a few times this past week, drawn to a feeling of freedom in him – maybe that’s what he finds in the end – with baby pastor there not helping him on very well… or maybe he is :)
    As Janis Joplin sang, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    Thank you, P : ) McCauley has freedom alright, but it never did hinge on another human. It came from a knowing that he was born to this world with the DNA and conditioning his parents bestowed upon him, and that there’s no stopping the living out of all that.
    I love that Joplin! Nothin’ left to lose is freedom alright and oh Lord woncha please buy me that Mercedes Benz!

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