Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chaz Bennet: Encounter with a Cow

This is not my story. This is a Chaz story. I first heard this from Chaz Bennett at our writing group, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective, the group he founded, in early 2014. By then he had almost completely lost his voice, and was using a voice synthesizer on his tablet to read the story to us. The voice he had chosen was male with a very proper British accent, which made an already funny story that much funnier.

I saw this absurdist tale as a meditation on the Undiscovered Country: not necessarily death, but the unknown that lies beyond this moment. I wanted to read it as the final story at the final open mic at the Vintage Theater back in August of 2014, but I didn't get it from Chaz in time. But he did send it to me, and I think he knew that I would hold onto it until a specific future event happened.

That event has happened. Chaz Patrick Bennett (nee Charles) died on Tuesday, October 27. His obituary was published October 29, and I found out about the funeral this morning, three hours before it took place. I made it there. His wife recognized me and remembered my name. For some reason, that more than anything else made me burst into tears.

Chaz wrote many, many stories over the years. I hope someday they are all seen by the world. Here is one of them.

Note: This story is edited from the version Chaz sent me, to clean up some typos and format the punctuation. It also cuts off a few lines at the end that were not included in the version he read to us. This is not necessarily the definitive version of this story. 

I am walking on a country road.   It' s a sunny day in May and I  feel like obliged to reconnect with nature. I've my Brownie Instamatic hoping to get a picture of robin red breast, the only bird I can recognize. I think I should do this more often. I pause and practice deep breathing.  My friend on nature walks, he stands his head and mediates.  I consider this and rule it out.  For one thing, I don’t know how. For another thing, he’s crazy as a loon.

I hear Louie Armstrong singing ‘What a wonderful...’

Satchmo stops singing, I stop dead and stare.

“You looking at me?  Never saw a talking, purple fucking cow before?'

 I shook my head.

“I cannot hear you.”

“I didn't say anything.”

“Get over here.  You’d think we’re a couple of farmers shouting at each other.”

I'm thinking not every day you get an invite from a purple cow.

I take the bait. I walk to the purple cow making sure the fence is between us. 

“Took you long enough.”

“Can I take your picture?'

“Nooooo. Did that sound like a moo?'

“Yes it did.'

“It did?  I’ve got to work on it.”

“You’re a cow, for christsake.”

“Hey, watch it buddy. I’m born again. As a matter of fact, you can not take my picture, you can not say 'that got past your eyes,’ and if ever call me Betsy, I will bury you under of avalanche of cowshit.”

I sensed that I pissed off the purple cow. Since I have an aversion to manure, I’d continue my nature walk.

“Hey. Where you going”

“No where, man - I mean, cow."

“Don’t lie to me.” 

“I won’t.”

“I like you, pal.  Want to see something?  Come over the fence.”

I do. Why, I don’t know.

“Twist my tail."

I do.

A set of steps pop out of the purple cow.

“Climb  in."

I do.

My feeble attempt at illustrating this story, painted on the wall of The Vintage in Scranton at the very last 24 Hours of Art celebration. The Vintage closed shortly afterwards.

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