Sample Stories
Book Signing
Reader's Response
Hull Village Reunion

Sample Stories
The Jim and Dan Stories
A Journey of Grief and Faith
by Colleen Redman


Below are a few sample stories from "The Jim and Dan Stories."

A Black Cow in a Dark Night
    Driving down Route 8 in the town of Floyd, going 50 miles an hour, I hit a cow. I was in my '87 Honda with the license plate that says "Let it be." That's the name of the song we sang to Danny the morning of his death. For though we may be parted… there is still a chance that we will see….There will be an answer….Let it be. It was night and the cow was black. I never saw it coming, the way Jimmy never saw the machine part that pinned him against the wall until it was too late. The impact of the cow's body shattered the windshield and dented the hood, but the car still ran. Sort of like breaking a leg and not like losing the function of a liver, like Dan did. I remember Dan's liver doctor talking to me about using kidney dialysis to help Dan's failing kidneys kick back. "It's like putting new brakes in a car when you really need a new transmission. Don't get your hopes up," he said.
   I wanted to pass right over the cow problem and continue on to my destination, but I had to wait for the State Police, get some phone numbers, and a new ride. The destination that I finally did reach was a celebration at The Pine Tavern for a group of friends who were all born in 1951 and who were turning, or had just turned, fifty. People there came up to me to offer insurance advice or to say, "I'm sorry about your accident, hitting the cow." I guess not many knew I had just lost two brothers and that the cow was the least of my problems. This was my first big night out since my brother's back-to-back deaths. I sat with a friend who I knew had recently lost her mother and who was able to be present for her mother's last breath, as I was for Dan's, feeling not so out of place with her. I was able to tell her that Danny was just about to turn 50 and would have if he had lived just one month more.
   Later at home, I emailed my brothers and sisters the cow story, feeling sad at how shortened my family email list had become without Dan and Jim on it. I especially missed being able to tell Jim, who always got a kick out of oddball life stories

Knocking Under the Hood
   My car has a new hood that almost matches the color of the old one, a new windshield, and, something else I didn't expect, a new sound under the hood. It makes me wonder, will I live long enough to experience everything that can go wrong with a car, or are the potential problems endless? I learned early about clutches, transmissions, brakes, radiators, and alternators. Then there were the smaller problems, most of them sounding like clothing accessories, like boots, shoes, belts, caps and pins. Every now and then I get a car diagnosis with a word so new to me it sounds made up.
   Years ago, I rode in a carpool to and from a New York Indian Reservation to attend a teaching event. One of the other riders was a full-blooded Mohawk woman. After getting two flat tires, she told us that our car problems were physical manifestations, or metaphors, for our own internal states. My car, back home, had been idling high. Sure enough, not long after that I developed a hyper-active thyroid.
   The phone rang. I heard my husband pick it up and then say, "It's for you. It's Sherry." These days I answer the phone asking, "Is everything all right?" instead of saying, "Hello."
   I got the news about Jimmy's death over the phone. So now, whenever a family member calls, I tense up and think, "What else has gone wrong?" Sherry and I haven't missed a day connecting through email since our brothers died, as if we think the other could disappear just as quickly as Jim and Dan did. A phone call felt more formal, but she assured me everything was fine. A musical fund-raiser for the families of those who died in the 9/11 attacks was on TV, and she wanted me to watch.
   The morning of Jim's death, I woke up to my answering machine picking up and then Tricia's shaky voice, "Colleen, call Ma's house as soon as you get up." What was Tricia doing at Ma's house? I called back immediately, worried that Dan had died, at least that would have made some sense.
   "We lost Jim," is what Kathy told me, crying. She might as well have told me that the moon had fallen from the sky.
   "What do you mean!? What do you mean!?" was all I could say before I was crying too.
   Jimmy, who usually got off work at midnight, had worked overtime by two hours, which turned out be the last two hours of his life. It was reported that he last spoke to a co-worker at 1:20 a.m. and was found dead just before 2 a.m. At 1:31 a.m., that same morning, my sister, Kathy, shot up from a sound sleep to her feet with a crushing feeling in her chest and a panicked sense of death. We figured that was when the machine crushed Jimmy. We all wanted to know how long he lived after the machine had pinned him. "Probably just long enough to say, "Oh Shit!" was Joey's guess.
   The time between when Jimmy last spoke to his co-worker and when he was found dead is a half-hour that will haunt us forever. We fill in our own possible scenarios and hope that he didn't suffer.

A Flood of Old Memories
   I had been working all morning with nothing to show for it. The printer was down. The stories I had written didn't seem real until they were printed onto paper, and I held them in my hand. It was as if they didn't exist if I couldn't see them, in the same way it's hard to understand the infinite with a finite mind, with a soul you can't see or prove is really there.
   I decided to clean the bathroom while Joe was working on the broken printer. Cleaning would take my mind off my frustration, and I would immediately see the results of my labor.
   While scrubbing the toilet, I noticed the plunger, which triggered a flood of old memories. It was bad enough that we grew up with one bathroom for eleven people, but we also had bad plumbing. It wasn't just that our toilet didn't flush well, sometimes it would overflow and sometimes so profusely that it would leak from the bathroom floor to the living room ceiling, which was really the same thing. God forbid, if this happened while you were the one in the bathroom. I had nightmares about broken toilets for years and occasionally still do.
   Sometimes, when we all get together, we relive our toilet trauma through the re-telling of stories. We remember the time Jim dropped a comb in the toilet and, rather than put his hand into the bowl to retrieve it, he flushed it down - or the time John flushed down a potato after using part of it for his pop gun ammunition. He didn't want to get in trouble for wasting good food and thought the toilet would be the perfect place to get rid of the evidence. We laugh now when we remember the time our cousin, Freddie, sat on our bathroom sink to wash the beach sand off his feet and caused it to break right off the wall. We were glad none of us had done that. Freddie got yelled at, but he also got to go home and that was the end of it.
   In the back of the house was the source of the bad plumbing (although our antics didn't help), a foul cesspool of darkness that would also sometimes overflow. I will never forget how my boyfriend, Kevin, while running playfully around the house, fell into the cesspool. I was surprised that he still liked me after that.
   It's funny how as you get older, even the bad memories seem good, or how when someone dies, the most ordinary of objects can be traced back to them. So many of my actions have been triggering childhood memories. Most of my conversations either revolve around Jim and Dan or eventually get steered back to them. The space they inhabit in my heart and mind is larger and deeper than when they were alive. It's as if a part of Jim and Dan lives in me, just as a part of me has left with them? Is that what death does? Funny, isn't it?


Home | About the Book | Responses | Order | About the Author | Politics | Poetry | Contact | What's New