Strap on your seatbelts and tap into those endorphins, this isn’t any ordinary ride.
Rod Travis meets Jonathan Huna at a park bench under a tree. It’s a feverish vision written down in 72-hours. I’m not sure if the writer had one long continuous sheet of paper while he typed up this remarkable story, but the power and fury of Seven Fish Tree is Ron Shaw’s On The Road of the mind.
It’s a stream of consciousness, branching every which way.
Georgia, Atlanta, Southern Gentleman, fried chicken – add in another Southern to give it a regional and cultural flavor. This distinction must be made.
This is Ron’s Shaw’s story, and no one can deny the achievement. It’s a record of his life and times, never to be forgotten.
‘I have been compelled by an unexplainable force to write what you will read here.’
Though the start begins at lofty heights, don’t be put off by the tone.
‘It would appear Stretch likes to ramble and speak in run-on sentences. Both are fine with me.’
On the shores of Paradise is fine white sugary sand and above are puffy candy floss clouds. The trees are dripping with M & Ms, and marshmallows, gravity could be one-third of earth, no foot prints on the sand notices Rod who feels he’s had an out of body sensation, and his feeling of well-being, wow, that dodgy knee isn’t playing up.
The new Utopia will be a place where there will be no fear and no loathing.
In sequences that flash across my retina, Jim, one of Rod’s three buddies, is dressed as a Dutch girl with pig tails who is smoking an unlit cigar, a lady bug belts out When You Wish Upon A Star and then the stars are exploding above and a renown but dead author in the desert is telling the boys to hang in there. Then there’s a screening room, an old 1940s actor is brought in to explain a few things.
This is Alice in Wonderland all over again and a cultural dish, served up through the medium of the idiot tube.
I can see a young Rod in front of the black and white television watching the local Atlanta The Pop-eye Show while his mother is chain smoking Pall Mall with worry written all over her face. Officer Don, the host of The Pop-eye Show, is instructing the child guests to sing ‘Ooey Gooey’ with him. I can see Rod also getting into the ‘Ooey Gooey’ song, saying to his siblings, ‘You’ll see me on that show soon.’
Rod is in pain, but he isn’t going to let it stop him from joining The Pop-eye Show. He’s broken out with poison Ivy welts. It pains him pulling off his bandages. It pains him, even more, pulling himself off the bed. His festering wounds have merged with the sheets.He’s stuck. And his siblings throw water on the bed, to help unstick him.
But he’s come through with the goods, two bags of sweets for participating on the show. He’s been a provider since he was a young boy. He learned the meaning of enterprise at a young age. His older brother, ‘be like David’, eventually, forsakes him. It’s always the way, isn’t it? When you worship the ground your brother stands on, something’s got to give eh?
Jonathan was born a few decades before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar that factored in the real date of Easter, Jesus’s rising from the dead.
Jonathan and Rod, in some ways, are the same person. When one finishes a thought, the other continues it.
God and Rod get on swell reminiscing about an American footballer who had ‘You Hate Me’ emblazoned on the back of his shirt. But his name is never mentioned, that would just be crass. Known as the Rocket, because of his explosive speeds, he was also the class ‘clown’, and a Southern Gentleman, having played for Carolina Panthers and lauded with stunning tackles. I knew the author couldn’t resist slipping this one in.
And that God totally agreed with his sentiments added warmth and familiarity with the meeting with His Maker.
Is that the energy drinking Pop-eye on a remote beach, inhabited by pigmies? Then I see Rod on the Atlanta Pop-eye Show again. Television splashes all kinds of alternating images and messages. Maybe this was the early version of MTV. He may return to a house without furniture, but there are enough ‘sugar rush’ bars to keep the family fed for another night.
Pop-eye of the dream sequence eventually turns the cards and knocks the baddy out flat with birds swirling around his head for visual effects.Now he’s got his sweat heart to save before she’s boiled alive in a pot and becomes the pigmies dinner. Pop-eye pops another energy drink and whisks her away to safety just like in the cartoons, with all those zany sounds.
And then we see the ‘baddy’ who tried to escape by swimming away from the island being eaten by a whale who blows out plumes of pink soda at the two lovers kissing in the sunset. This is Salvador Dali in words.
It wasn’t Pop-eye. It was another character I’m not familiar with, but this character did have Pop-eye features. Maybe the author wanted to invent his own character who didn’t eat cans of spinach, but who preferred Red Bull. And the ‘baddy’ was called Mike-Something, I just can’t recall it. ‘Baddy’ is my adaptation of the story!
Then we see Rod in a rowing boat, crossing the seas, at first calm, then rough. It’s another lesson, it won’t be easy, there’ll be challenges, but have faith.
The roots of the tree dig deep into Rod’s psyche. As a young boy, he regrets slamming the door on his neighbor (who he fancied but she fancied her older brother, double dang). Jon informs him that she got most of her feelings back into her sown on fingers.
There’s another tragedy. Rod blamed himself. But there was nothing he could do to put off his nephew in joining the force. He was only following in his favorite uncle’s footsteps. Unfortunately, that stray bullet was too well aimed.
Being a police officer isn’t all donuts and coffee. It’s a dangerous occupation. In some ways worse than being a soldier.They are always on the front line. Only stealth, compassion and a lot of luck is what gets the officer’s through a career on the police force. And only then can they write about it.
There’s the genesis of Rod being a copper and the sad day he met his dad, Harold, selling fruit out of a van with his hooker girlfriend. A concerned copper knocked Rod’s father for six after telling him he should be ashamed of himself for leaving four kids and a wife for a whore. Rod’s haunting childhood is ever present. Seeing his mother getting eaten alive by Cancer was just horrific as if her hard life wasn’t enough punishment.
The narrative is full of high jinx too. With up comes down, east come west, there’s always a streak of mischievousness in Mr. Shaw’s writing.
‘Apparently, Catholics were right about this one all the time. ‘ The tree not only has cured the old fogies of ailments, but given back their libido.
Three of Rod’s best buddies join the Apocalyptical Ride of a life time. It’s Barry who seems the sanest of them all and with a spiritual bent, he has more input than the other two. Jim’s pegged for being a Prophet, but the odds are on Barry.
Yet Barry is on the hot seat. His understanding of the Lost Covenant, The Ark, The Tree of Life, is the pivotal point in the story. The author has made him a fall guy so that he can draw out how easy it is to shoot the messenger.
Even God had his suspicions about Barry, thinking he was another one of those Hale-Boppers.
Jon is also older, wiser and was born in 1563, the year the English surrendered Le Havre to the French after a siege. He’s getting tired and confused and can’t wait to be reunited with his family in Paradise. But it’s the Judas in the form of Barry who provides a revelation for the Tree Prophet.
Time of the mind, the universe on a pin prick, Barry was speaking like a prophet.
God isn’t up there, said Barry pointing towards the tree, he’s in our mind snapping among the brain cells. The voyage to Paradise, via the tree, was just a metaphor, suggested Barry. Rod had it right. One second in God’s time was equivalent to 30 minutes of our time in the tree of life.
‘When the earth is obliterated, watches go with it.’
Barry couldn’t be tempted by evil, the message was too clear here to deviate with another fake Millennium Movement.
Is God patient and wiser, and is beyond interfering with the evil of man? He admits too often that the messengers are always being capped. But he’s quick to add that there is revenge, like Judas who hung from his own hand.
Is Heaven within us all? Keep on eye on doomsday. With a wing and prayer, we may just get over that hurdle with another Spring day.
Will Rod will the sun to continue shining? He’ll promise God a few human adjustments if he does.
Seve Fish Tree is like Hunter S Thompson on LSD. ‘Take the ride, climb the tree.’
The story is akin to building a baseball stadium in a corn field, ‘They’ll come.’
And in droves, they did to escape their Armageddon’s of their sick and depraved minds. This was no colonizing Mars on an Elon Musk rockets. This was the ultimate voyage of the mind that even Timothy Leary would give a nod in acknowledgment.
“And written without one tab of LSD?’
Yep, that’s right Tim, it was Star Trek on steroids. Which is what makes reading Ronnie Shaw a treat- his stories are drug and alcohol-free. It’s raw emotions dished up as a banquet.
Not at all Baby Whale, not at all.
REM time, only seconds, feels like 72- hours. It was Ron Shaw’s dream.