Sweet Chariot

a haibun

Chuck Brickley

"Jesus gave it to me!"

Dale pointed to an old clunker he had just parked on the steep dirt road leading up to my cabin. It was a Cadillac from the late 50's, primed for a paint job long forsaken, its dented chrome bumpers covered with rust.

I laughed. Dale smelled like an empty beer glass. A dozen of 'em.  
"Who gave it to you?"

"Jesus!" Dale slurred. "Brakes shot, but hell, the price was right!" He collapsed onto the bottom porch step, and fumbled for a cigarette. I leaned against the rail.

scattered woodpile
a raven feather glistens
in the morning light

"Last night this old logger sits next to me at the pub," said Dale, watching his attempt at a smoke ring fade. "White ponytail, scraggly white beard. Born here, he claims, but I never seen him before. Seemed tired, like he's been tired forever. Can't get him to say much, so I end up telling my story--which you, my friend, know's a sorry one. The whole time he just sits there, 'casionally nodding, hardly touching his beer. Then, when I say I'm a logger too, but can't work 'cause I can't afford a car to get anywhere, he grins. Geezer grins. I was about to ask what's so funny, when he stands up and tosses a pair of keys on the counter. I thought he wanted me to check out his lucky charm. Carved cedar, man. Fit in my hand like I was the one worn it smooth over the years. When I looked up--bugger was gone."

a wild twisting chinook
hooked through the mouth
by a key ring

"A joke, right?" Dale continued. "I finish my beer--and his too, of course--and head outside looking for the guy. Straight off I see this banged up Caddy parked a ways down by the river. Kinda spooked me. I look up and down both sides of the street. Nobody, nowhere."

outdoor footlights
a chainsaw carved bear roars
the river

"I'll be damned. The key fit, and the beast started up! Hallelujah! I've been driving around this mountain all night, thanking the good Lord for crossing that guy's path with mine. Once there was a siren. Y'hear it? Just before dawn, from somewhere below. Scary. Thought it was for me, for being behind the wheel. Hey, what was I gonna do? Sit there by the river and wait for my angel to maybe come back?"

a gull rides
a chum downstream
morning chill

Dale ficked his cigarette butt and stumbled back to the car. I followed, trying to talk him into staying for a cup of coffee. He managed to climb into the Caddy by himself, and rolled down the window.

"Have a little faith, brother. I just came up here to share the good news. He's looking after me, he is." Dale arched his brows toward the clear, Douglas fir encircled sky.

"What makes you think it was Jesus?" I asked. "Maybe it was your karma, Dale. Your carma."

Dale gunned the engine coupla times, smiled. "Hell no. Had to be Jesus. That karma guy don't give me nothin'!"

dust swirling
the logging road's sharp turn
at the cliff's edge








published in Modern Haiku - volume 48.1 - winter-spring 2017