While I am a firm believer in having my books edited, I never did with my autobiography. I just felt like when writing it; it was straight from my heart and for me, it was something I wanted to be ‘just mine.’ Granted I didn’t just slop it together or such but as I am nearing the end of my second autobiography I was very curious about your thoughts. Also, something I found interesting is author Cormac McCarthy, who has sold millions of books. I actually purchased one though it is not my genre as his work is a lot of country western books, but the story must have outshined his editing as he never has his books edited. Let me just say, wow, as his punctuation is nearly not there at all. Guess he was able to pull it off. Very interesting though I would never attempt that with my books excluding my autobiographies. Now to share what I am talking about with my first autobiography. This is for 18+ age as it is very gritty, raw and a lot of foul language. I will try to pull the cleanest chapter.
Blissful Misery by S.K. Ballinger
JUST BREATHE Like most boys growing up, I fancied myself having some great career and making lots of money; living the high life, you might say. Never, never in a million years did I dream that construction work would play a part in my life. But, it did. Of course, I did a lot of other things, too, on my way to construction. At the time I started, it was either work in construction or fast food. I’d already had my share of fast food jobs and found out they basically sucked ass. The absolute worst food job I ever had was at Red Lobster. The place always smelled like fish, but I could overcome that; it was my specific job that turned me off and put me over the edge with fast food work even if not fast food, but food in general. I pictured myself working at Red Lobster as a dishwasher or even a cook, but I certainly didn’t plan to be their damn mascot, Larry,the Lobster. Talk about humiliation for a growing young man – dressed in a damn lobster suit drumming up business? Not hardly a position that makes girls take a second look for the right reasons. Anyway, I digress. Back to construction. Trent, my best friend at the time, got me my first construction job. He had always done construction work and made pretty good money at it, so it was a no-brainer for me to turn in my lobster suit for a hammer. In fact, Trent owned his own construction company and did well for himself later on in his time. Plus, he’s the uncle of my oldest two children, which means he was my brother-in-law for a while. We worked together in many different locations over a period of time. There was always something different every
day – if it wasn’t a different job, it was a different happening. Construction work can be dangerous, but it can be entertaining, too. This is one story of how I helped to do some of that entertaining one day. It’s also a story that had a huge impact on my life which was taking place on Wanamaker Street in Topeka, Kansas. As it goes… On this particular day, I was on the roof of an old folk’s apartment complex that we were building in Topeka. It was a cold and dreary day, which is the only real reason I was wearing gloves; sometimes I’m a slacker at things I should do for safety, or used to be anyway. I was at one level of the rooftop while another employee was above me on a forklift lowering down huge rolls of tar paper, the underlayment for roof shingles. Now, these rolls of tar paper weighed anywhere from 70 to 100 pounds each – they are heavy suckers – especially for me ‘cause I only weigh about 150 on a “fat” day. But, usually, I can find a way to manage with my slight self. To handle these big rolls of tar paper that he was lowering down to me, I’d place my right hand underneath the roll and my left hand to the side of it, bringing it down in a swinging sort of motion. Once he released the roll, I would “roll/walk” it to the side in order to make room for the next roll of tar paper he would lower. Well, we got the seventh or eighth roll lowered, and the next one was already in my hands. As soon as I said, “Let go,” I realized I hadn’t moved the seventh/eighth roll out of the way, but it was too late to do it, so my right hand got crushed between the two rolls. And, if that wasn’t enough, the roll I was swinging down fell from my grasp and busted the wood on the roof. I screamed bloody murder. It felt like my damn hand had
been completely pinched off, but I knew that it hadn’t because my left hand quickly grabbed and held tightly onto my right wrist, probably trying to keep the hand and the wrist from completely separating. My co-workers scrambled to my side, eventually helping me down the ladder where the owner of the construction company was waiting for me. He said he had to see my hand in order to determine if I had to go to the hospital or not. I was reluctant for anyone to even touch my smashed hand, but he ultimately got his way and took the glove off. “Yep,” he quickly said, “you definitely gotta go to the hospital.” He called Jeff, our foreman, over to help walk me to his big ass Lincoln car. That was good, except that Jeff wasn’t familiar with Topeka, meaning he didn’t have a rat’s ass idea of where St. Francis Hospital was and I wasn’t in the best shape to be navigating anybody anywhere. Hell, I couldn’t even bring myself to look at my jacked-up hand. Things were already getting a little fuzzy in my head. Now, before I go any further with this story, I have to tell you that I hate a damn hospital. That is where people go if they are jacked up on something, have just shot someone or have been shot themselves or have some contagious disease that they are only too willing to spread around the universe. Plus, people die there every day or so. It just isn’t a good place to be in my way of evaluating places I want to hang out or go. But, back to the story, Jeff pulls around to pick me up in his big ass Lincoln car – the model that has the long, front bench seat, not the more modern separate seats that make you feel like you’re riding in heaven. Finally, we were on our way to the hospital. I was trying to give him directions when I
suddenly asked him, “How bad is my hand?” He replied, “Oh, not that bad.” I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I drummed up the courage to look for myself. Immediately, I wished I hadn’t – my hand was all fucked up – my fingers were stuck in a funky position like something on a zombie’s hand, but there was no blood. I said to Jeff, “What the fuck is going on with my hand.” He just said, “Calm down and take some deep breaths. You’ re hyper- ventilating.” Hyperventilating??? Well, hell yes, I was hyperventilating – my damn hand was all twisted and crooked!! Things got even fuzzier in my head at this point, but I wasn’t out of it. I had my faculties, as they call it, so I knew the extent of my injury. You know the old Jedi mind trick shit that people use when they need to not pay attention to what they are paying attention to? You know, where you focus really, really hard on something until you physically move it with your mind? Well, I tried that. I focused on my pointer finger so hard it felt warm, but to no avail; the damn finger didn’t move at all. Not one speck. I was doomed to be right-handless. Things only got worse. I had my window of that big-ass Lincoln rolled down some so that I could suck in as much air as possible, trying to breathe like Jeff, the foreman, told me to do. So, to distract myself by thinking how lucky I was that it was only one hand that got damaged, I looked at my left hand for encouragement. I was shocked and started to freak out! Now it, the left hand, was also fucked up! I got really upset because I knew damn well that I didn’t smash that hand, too. I asked Jeff, “What the hell is up with my left hand now?” He told me again
to just breathe; I wasn’t getting enough oxygen to my brain. I needed to calm down, he said. Bullshit! How the hell would he feel if this crap had happened to him? Facing a life without hands, and all that shit! But, I didn’t say that to my foreman. We had to stop at a red light. By now, pretty much every part of my body had gotten stiff as a board. I felt like I was turning to stone, but I was still aware of what was being said around me and shit like that. At this red light was a group of construction workers, so Jeff yelled to them, “Is this the way to St. Francis Hospital?” They didn’t hear Jeff at first, so I took over the task. I knew we were going the right way, but I screamed at them anyway just to give Jeff confidence, “Is this the way to the hospital?” At least, that is what my mind was saying, but what was coming out of my mouth sounded like, “Izz thizzz da way doo da hoskpittable?” It sounded funny because my lips were starting to become paralyzed like my body was. Just to help you understand what I mean, close your eyes and imagine a deaf person trying to speak to you…that is what it sounded like more or less…sorta like the deep honking noise a goose makes in between words. The construction guys finally caught onto what I was asking and said, “Yes, this is the way.” I felt victorious even though, those workers were laughing at me. So, here we sat at this damn red light that won’t turn green with another car in front of us so we can’t even run the damn light without making an effort to do it. My life is on the line, and the light won’t turn green! With all the energy I had left in my stiffening body, I flopped across the big bench seat to Jeff and hollered, “Go!” I must have scared the shit out of him because he suddenly swerved around the car in front of us,
ran the red light and put the pedal to the metal. Guess he didn’t know what I might do next, and neither did I. It was really fuzzy in my head about now and starting to see spots of death. Finally, we arrived at the emergency room entrance at St. Francis! Jeff ran inside, leaving me behind in the car on the long bench seat. Now, he had been telling me to breathe, get some fresh air. Naturally I wanted out of the damn car, so I could get some fresh air. But, I couldn’t open the door with two injured hands. I wobbled my way around on that long bench seat, finally getting into a lying position where I could just kick the damn passenger door open on that big ass Lincoln car. To add some drama, I was screaming, “Get me out of this damn car” very loudly, over and over again. Obviously, with a body turning to stone, I wasn’t able to kick the door at all, because my legs couldn’t make contact with my toes. Fortunately for me, this black man, who I now refer to as my angel ‘cause everybody’s got one, came over to the car and asked if I needed help. “Get me out of the car!” I begged him. He quickly opened the passenger door of that big ass Lincoln car, grabbed hold of my feet and pulled me out. He even helped me to stand up. I told him the best I could with my stiff lips, “Thank you,” but when I turned to face him, poof! He was gone! That’s how I also knew he was my angel – he just faded in a flash before I could even turn around. I might not ever know for sure if he was an angel, but he sure was a cool ass dude for getting me out of that damn car! Anyway, there I stood, alone, breathing fresh air like Jeff told me to do, propped up on the side of that big ass Lincoln. After what seemed like hours, Jeff finally came out of
the emergency room door with a nurse pushing a wheelchair. She came up to me and asked, “What happened?” To the best that I could with my paralyzing lips, I replied, “I smashed my hand.” But, seeing how I was talking like a deaf person on crack, it must have sounded really weird to her because she turned to Jeff and said, “Oh, he’s retarded!” Now, don’t forget that I am still able to comprehend what is going on around me, so her comment pissed me off. I began cussing her out in a voice that sounded like very hard dripping water with a vowel thrown in here and there. Jeff told her that I wasn’t retarded, but I was having trouble thinking and speaking clearly. How the hell did he know what I was going through? She apologized for her remark and asked me to sit in the wheelchair. Don’t forget either that I’m turning to stone, so I was shuffling like a penguin trying to walk to the wheelchair. Then, the bitch says to Jeff, “Does he always walk this way?” Pissed off at her again, I started cussing her out to the best of my ability. I mean, really, come the fuck on, people, no one, walks like I was walking, retarded or not. Hell, people with just nubs don’t even walk the way I was, for crying out loud. Yeah, I was pissed. Again, Jeff told her, “No, he doesn’t always walk that way.” She apologized again and helped me, along with Jeff holding one arm and her the other one, to the wheelchair. As soon as they sat me down in it, though, my legs kicked straight out in front of me because I couldn’t move them. I had lost total control of my stony body. Even so, this crazy nut case of a nurse proceeds to put the foot rests of the wheelchair down for me. I couldn’t bend
my damn legs, for god’s sake, what the hell did I need footrests for?? She begins pushing me to the hospital doors with my legs sticking straight out and the foot rests down. I realized that I was in good hands and tried to calm myself back down to being a reasonable guy. Once inside, a whole group of nurses and Jeff picked me up from the wheelchair and laid me on the bed. Now, something would get done for my deformed hands, both of them. If death didn’t overtake me first! A little bit later, this doctor came in and started an IV in my arm. As it pumped all sorts of shit into me, I began to relax. I think it was some potion that turns stone back into dirt, except it’s for a human, not a rock. They took an x-ray of my right hand to determine the damage, which, honestly, I was sure would result in an amputation of my right hand that got caught between the tar paper bundles, and probably a cast for my left hand that caught an affliction from the damage to the right one. As more and more of the relaxing juice pumped into my body, I was able to move a little here and there. I could now bend my legs and turn my head without the fear of cracking something. It felt fucking fantastic to start regaining some control of my body! After a half hour or so, the doctor came back in with the x-ray results. I mentally and physically braced myself for what I was certain would be life-altering news. A flash picture of one of those hooks people use when they lose a hand crossed my mind, all shiny at the end of a leather strap-on device. But, having limbered up a little bit, I was braced for the bad news. I’m a man; I could take it! “How bad is it, Doc?” I immediately asked, showing him that I had already accepted my fate. But, surprises come.
“Not bad at all,” he answered. Yeah, I thought to myself, like Jeff telling me to ‘Just breathe!’ “C’mon, Doc, give it to me. I can take the news,” I said, huffing up my chest as a physical sign of my inward strength. “No, really,” he said. “It’s not bad at all.” Now, if there is anything a small guy like me can’t stand, it’s for somebody to try to soften a blow. Like we can’t take it or something like that. Again, I huffed up, even raised up on my elbow, the left one, and faced him directly. “Look, Doc,” I said, “I can adjust to anything, always have, always will. Gimme the low down; I’ll handle it!” Looking straight at me like a man should, he calmly replied, “You have a blood blister on your right hand.” “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? A blood blister??? A God damn blood blister???” I yelled at him! “That’s it? A blood blister?” He smiled and shook his head up and down to signal in the affirmative. “Yep, a blood blister. You’ll be fine. A little sore, maybe, but your hand is fine. There’s no damage to it.” That little answer was a big blow to a man that had gotten himself mentally prepared. But, I adjust well, so I put my clothes back on and left the hospital with Jeff, riding high in his big ass Lincoln with the long, bench seat and the windows down, just breathing in that fresh air. Jeff had been right. I had been in shock from the pain of having my hand smashed. There wasn’t enough oxygen getting to my brain, which is why I talked so funny and acted so crazy. Shock is a way for your body to handle whatever is happening to it in a time of crisis. When I went to work the next day, my
co-workers had a good laugh at my expense. But, it goes like that in construction work; something different every day. That’s okay. It made for a good story to tell, even though it has taken me many years to tell it in a book. There is, however, a moral here for you: Keep calm when shit happens. That way, you won’t be called a retard or laughed at by those who witness you in a time of incomprehension. It really does pay to keep your mouth shut!
This story alone I have told many times over and seems to really get the laughter at my expense going for people to want to know more about me. I am just pointing out that this was a highlight story which I hope you enjoyed in this book. I have grown older and have really learned to keep calm in all situations which I think is the lesson I learned from that time of my life. It was very hard to be called the names I was called and also taught me that perhaps one should think twice about name calling as that can affect a person drastically. I also found out how amazing the human mind is and what it is capable of doing. That one can comprehend while also not being able to move as the mind shuts that part of the body down. Last and foremost – Anytime you encounter a situation of panic, keep calm even if it is hard to do as you can create more damage then necessary to yourself!
Yeah, I will never forget that day and am sure Trent hasn’t either. These next few stories kind of tie a little bit of
Trent and I together on how we met. Not including the Shaw’s. See, back then while young as we were and almost inseparable if you will, we were or, at least, I wasn’t, the brightest tool in the shed in High school. In fact, I was pulled out of Shawnee Heights and eventually decided to get my GED (General Education Diploma) down the road. Trent over time did the same damn thing. In between those shallow and short moments, I while living with my mom, was a horny and lonely little shit. I only share this part as this ties into a little bit about the Shaws’ and how even Trent ended up coming along for a short ride in being young, irresponsible and clueless just like me in good ol’ Carbondale, KS. This is where I wouldn’t have guessed I would meet my first actual girlfriend at the sweet age of 16 while having a teenager line and her name was Amy. It goes as this….