Category Archives: Stories

The Beach

“I can’t believe I spent fifteen years on the subway looking at a picture of that damn palm tree thinking it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in the world.”
“George, did you bring the sunblock? You know I get splotchy if I don’t have my sunblock.”
“Freezing my ass on that subway going home every night, staring at that damn palm tree. Spring Hill, Florida, the poster said. Go retire to Spring Hill, Florida, and be happy, the poster said.”
“If you didn’t bring the sun block I’m going back to the car. I’m not going to get all splotchy just because you forgot the sunblock.”
“Fifteen years of thinking if I survive another New York winter and save my money, I can go live under that damn palm tree.”
“Oh. Never mind. It was at the bottom of my bag.”
“They didn’t tell me the houses were halfway across the county from the damn palm tree.”
“Do you want a Coke? I got diet and regular in the thingy here.”
“You drive an hour and when you get here, and it ain’t all that big, either.”
“Your belly’s getting too big. I’m giving you a diet.”
“Look at that beach. It’s nothing. Atlantic City has a bigger beach than that.”
“If we were in Atlantic City right now you’d be freezing your ass off. Now drink your Coke, for crying out loud.”
“Somebody ought to sue those bastards for false advertising. Making Spring Hill look like some damn South Beach or something.”
“We couldn’t afford an outhouse in South Beach. Drink your Coke.”
“I have to walk out a mile before I get my ass wet, the beach is so shallow.”
“If you want your ass wet, I’ll pour the Coke down your pants.”
“I mean, fifteen years of saving our money to move to Spring Hill, and the damn palm tree isn’t even pretty.”
“George, where the hell else do you want to go?”
“Aww, Louise, don’t start in on me.”
“You want to go back to New York, George? It’s snowing in New York, George. Do you want to spend another winter shoveling snow? You want to shovel snow until you drop dead of a heart attack?”
“Give me the damn Coke, Louise.”
“You want to live in South Beach, George? Why? You want to stare at all the young girls in bikinis? They wouldn’t give you a second look. You know why? Because you’re an old man, George.”
“Now you’re just getting nasty, Louise.”
“I know I’m just a wrinkled up old broad from New York, George, but you know what? I think you’re the best looking thing on this beach.”
“I know I’m the best looking thing on this beach. I’m the only thing on this beach except for that damn palm tree.”
“Look, George. The sun is setting. Not a cloud in the sky.”
“Well, maybe not the best looking thing on the beach. For a wrinkled up old broad from New York, you’re okay, Louise.”
“Drink your Coke, George.”

Dream

This guy shot his gun in the air and demanded all my money. This was very inconvenient because I was in the middle of an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant which was filled with people enjoying their dinner.
“Take all your cash and tape it to your head,” he ordered. “I will stand at the entrance and as you file out I will take the money. You may then walk away and proceed with your peaceful lives.”
My first thought was that I didn’t have any tape. Looking around I observed the other patrons took out rolls of tape and attached their bills to their heads, stood and headed for the door. They seemed relaxed about the entire situation as though they had been through this sort of thing before. I didn’t eat in fancy restaurants often so I didn’t know if this happened all the time or not.
My second thought was that I didn’t have enough money to pay for both my meal and my ransom. If I was going to be killed, I might as well go to my Maker with a full stomach, I decided, and continued to eat my food. Also, I wondered that if I hunched over and was quiet perhaps the armed bandit would not notice me. That didn’t work out because when everyone else left, it was obvious I was indeed still there. However, one other man, sitting at an adjacent table, had stayed to finish his plate, too. I leaned over to whisper to him.
“Excuse me,” I asked him, “but doesn’t this seem like an odd predicament?”
“It probably is an odd predicament but not too terribly alarming,” he replied as he took his last bite of food and wiped his mouth with the linen napkin. “After all, I’m a young healthy man and capable of earning back in a relatively short period of time any money I lose tonight.”
It was at that point I realized he was quite a few years younger than me and in the prime of life. On the other hand, I was 70 years old and my prospects of earning more money were considerably diminished. If the guy with the gun showed up at very many more establishments where I was eating, I wouldn’t have any money left at all.
“Pardon me,” the young man said as he stood. “I have to give that gentleman my cash. Have a nice day.”
Looking around I hoped to find another exit so I could slip out the back way without the gunman spotting me. As was my luck, the restaurant ignored the fire codes and only had the one door. So now I was down to it. My choices were laid out—stiff the restaurant and pay the gunman or pay the bill and let him blow my brains out.
I didn’t know what I did because I woke up and remembered I had a doctor’s appointment. I taped my money to my head and drove to the office.

Don’t Mess With Linda

Linda protected her older sister Anne because Anne, Linda felt, let people run over her. She came to this conclusion after seventy years of watching Anne cave into other people’s demands just to get along.
The Florida sun beaded down as the sisters walked up the steps to the bank to make a deposit. Linda knew the clerk would short-change her sister if she did not watch her every move. Anne lost her footing and fell back down the steps.
“You okay, Sis?” Linda bent over to lightly touch Anne’s arms and legs. “Does this hurt?”
Before Linda knew it a bank clerk hovered over them with a large umbrella.
“Oh you poor thing,” the clerk cooed. “How dreadful. Let me protect you from that awful sun.” In the next breath she stuck a piece of paper and pen under Anne’s nose. “Here, sign this.”
“Okay.” Anne took the paper and pen and signed.
“No!” Linda screamed, but it was too late.
The clerk smiled at Linda in triumph. “There, there, everything will be all right.”
Linda pinched her lips because she knew the paper was a release form, clearing the bank from any responsibility for the accident. Why did Anne always do this to her?
“Yes, everything will be all right as soon as the ambulance gets here. You did call 911, didn’t you?”
The clerk paused. “No, I was concerned about your sister getting heatstroke so I came straight out with the umbrella.”
“My goodness,” Linda said in feigned concern. “We must go immediately inside and call 911, mustn’t we?”
“I’ll do it,” the clerk replied. “You stay here with your sister.”
“No, she’ll be okay. She’s got the umbrella.”
Linda stood and put her arm around the clerk’s waist as they walked into the bank. “Oh, my dear, I don’t know what we’d done without your quick thinking.” She raised her voice. “Someone call 911! My sister needs an ambulance!”
“I’ll do that.” The clerk tried to pull away with the signed paper.
“Oh my sister! Oh my sister! What am I going to do!” Linda wrapped her arms around the clerk. “She’s all I got in life! Help me! Help me!”
“My dear lady! Control yourself.”
“No! No!” Linda sobbed and pawed the clerk. “I need the comfort of your arms. You are so sweet to me!”
A siren cut through the air. Linda pulled away and headed for the door. “Oh good. The ambulance is here. Thank you, my dear.”
Outside she knelt by her sister under the umbrella.
“What was on that piece of paper I signed?” Anne sounded mystified.
“Don’t worry about it, Sis.” Linda extended her hand to show the wadded-up paper. “I robbed the bank.”

How Dare You

Gloria became distracted slicing the roast beef when Dave put his arms around her waist.
“Gee, Honey, that smells great,” he murmured, nuzzling her neck.
She concentrated on the knife going through the meat as Dave kissed her on the cheek.
“You’re going to make me cut myself,” she said, trying not to be curt.
“In that case I’ll sit down and be a good boy,” David replied as he plopped in the kitchen chair closest to her.
Gloria brushed strands of gray hair from of her brown eyes as she finished carving the roast. Looking around the table she saw the vegetables were in place. They glistened in the candlelight. Candles lit by her husband of thirty-five years. She studied them carefully before turning her attention to Dave. His dark hair was still closely cropped. His cheeks were full as always, and his wrinkled face was as fair as it ever was, almost pink. But something was not the same.
“Please sit down, dear,” Dave said. “I can’t enjoy this delicious meal until you join me.” As he smiled, the dimples in his cheeks deepened.
She took a chair across the table from him and began to fill her plate.
“There were a lot of people at your brother’s funeral today,” Gloria said slowly.
“Yes, Ben had a lot of friends.”
“I noticed you didn’t cry.”
Dave kept his head down. “You know me. I don’t show my emotions much.”
“Unlike Ben. I never knew anyone who wore his feelings on his sleeve like he did. No wonder he committed suicide.”
“Yeah, kind of a pansy, wasn’t he?”
“So different, the two of you, to be identical twins.” Her voice was aloof and soft.
“But I got the good-looking wife, and he didn’t.” Dave laughed. “Gosh, this roast beef is great.”
“Thanks.” Gloria folded her hands in her lap. “Poor Ben. He never married.”
“Like I said, he was a pansy.”
“No, that wasn’t it. I don’t think I ever told you this, but Ben proposed to me the same night as you did. I told him no. I said I loved you instead. He told me I’d regret marrying you. He said you were a cold-hearted son of a bitch who would make my life miserable.”
“Who cares what that pansy thought?”
She stood, picked up the carving knife, walked around the table and quickly put the knife to Dave’s throat. “How did you do it?”
He dropped his fork and gasped. “Do what?”
“Kill Dave.”
“But I’m Dave.”
“No, you’re not. You’re Ben.”
“That’s—that’s foolishness,” he mumbled. “You’ve always been a foolish woman,” he added, finding his voice. “I don’t know how I’ve put up with you all these years.”
“Dave said that a lot.”
“Of course, I did—and I still say you’re a foolish woman.”
“Every time Dave said that I noticed you always clinched your jaw and turned a little red. You hated your brother.”
“He was my brother, I didn’t hate him. I didn’t hate Ben. How could anyone hate Ben?”
“That’s right. Nobody hated Ben.” Gloria pushed the blade into his soft, wrinkled skin. “Now tell me the truth, or I’ll slice your throat.”
“All right. All right. I killed the son of a bitch. I hated him for the way he treated you. I wrote my own suicide note and killed him. No need for an autopsy when you got a suicide note written in the hand of the man they think is dead.”
“And you thought you could fool me?”
“No, I thought you’d like having a good husband after all those years with that son of a bitch.”
“Well, he may have been a son of a bitch,” Gloria said as she plunged the knife straight down between his shoulder and collar bone, “but he was my son of a bitch.”

Stories From a Friend–Shoeshine

Note: The author of this story is my new friend, Clyde J. Hady of Brooksville, Florida. His business Facebook is Hometown Electric. Check out his latest invention on You Tube.

In 1937 I was 12 years old, and my Father was the most important man in town. It was a small town, we knew everybody, well my Mom and Dad did. We owned the forge in town, (the forge was where we melted metal and made parts that went all over the United States), and we hired most of the people in town. When we walked down the street everybody would greet us. I thought we had it made. Life was great, and we were important.

Every morning my Dad left for the factory, and he would stop in two places on the way in. First he would stop at the paper corner and get his paper (newspaper). Then he would go down the block and into the barbershop. He didn’t always get his hair cut, but he did get his shoes shined every day.

I remember going with him, when I was 12. Everybody respected my Dad! As we walked I said, “Dad, you have the most important job in the whole town, don’t you?” I remember he smiled, but he didn’t say anything. That meant he didn’t agree with what you said! So I asked him, “Isn’t your job the most important in town?” So he asked me, “What makes a job important?” Well I figured I didn’t know the answer. That’s the way my Dad was. He was always asking you questions that he knew you didn’t have the answer for right away.

So we walked past the paperboy, and headed toward the barbershop. I didn’t say anything, because it never helped to rush my Dad. He’d let you know in his own good time what the answer was.

When my Dad sat down to have his shoes shined, the shoeshine boy started talking and shining at the same time. It was mostly small talk, but then he said, “I’m sorry it’s taking so long, but you scuffed this one good. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to accomplish the same task.” Now a shine only cost a nickel so I was really shocked when my Dad gave him a dime and said, “Keep it, you deserve it today.” Why a whole nickel, that was a weeks allowance for me.

My Dad could see I was wondering why, so he said, “I’ll tell you why!” He said, “Today at work I am going to make decisions about things I don’t even know yet! Some of those decisions are going to be easy, some are going to take more thought. And when I am thinking about the tough decisions I’m going to look at these shoes. I’m going to notice that these shoes look brand new, and because I look my best, I’m going to feel more confident about myself and my decisions. I’m also going to remember that it took longer today, to make them look this good. But Bill didn’t ask for more money, he just did the job that was necessary. His job was a little more difficult, but he simply put more effort into it. Today, Bill had the most important job in town, because he allowed me to do my best. The importance of a job is much less what the job is, and much more how the job is done.”

That night I did my chores extra good, and to this day when I look at my shoes, I remember to do the very best job that I can, because my job is one of the most important jobs.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Thirty-Four


Previously in the novel: Mercenary Leon fails in a kidnapping because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the spy world is socialite Wallis Spencer, who dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David and Wallis officially meet at Thelma’s party.
David decided not to tell George the real reason to go to Argentina. Yes, they did put on their morning suits and top hats in order to cut the ribbon to open the British Empire trade Exposition. He promised George a good time because they were staying at the large estate of millionaire scion Jorge Ferrara near Sugar Loaf Mountain and Ipanema Beach. When they returned to the mansion to change for the casual evening festivities, David planned on locking George in his bedroom to let the agony of withdrawal begin.
He knew it was a risk to bring Jorge in on the secret of George’s addiction. David had known the gadabout for years. Jorge spent as much time in New York and London as he did in Buenos Aires, which meant David knew all of his secrets too. Sometime ago, for example, Jorge pitched woo to talented show girl Jessie Matthews who was featured in her first Broadway show. When leading lady Gertrude Lawrence fell ill, Jessie was promoted to star. In celebration Jorge lost control and forced himself on Jessie. The sexual assault resulted in a pregnancy and a dangerous illegal abortion.
Jessie, with her own career in jeopardy, pretended as though nothing had happened. David thought Jorge should have been relieved. However, he didn’t change his behavior. The prince suspected Jorge had not learned any moral scruples. In any case the prince thought the playboy would allow confidential use of his house in exchange for the assurance the reports of his violent criminal act on Jessie would not make it into the British newspapers.
After the ceremonies David and George were about to enter Jorge’s limousine when a messenger intercepted them. He wore a tan service uniform. David was confused. If the messenger were military he would have had insignia and stripes.
“My employer wishes to have a word in private with the two princes.” A slight Bahamian accent infiltrated his English articulation.
David pushed George into the car. “And who is your employer?”
“He wishes to keep this meeting, shall we say, clandestine? But I can assure you that once you have met him you will recognize him.”
David sensed danger in this situation he did not mind for himself but felt George was not up to the challenge. He shut the car door and waved the driver on.
“Very well. Lead on.”
The messenger lead David on narrower and darker lanes away from the lights and music of the trade exposition. The sun was setting which heightened the urgency of the situation. He had to jog to keep up with the man in the uniform.
“How long have you known your employer?”
“I don’t know him.”
“But you said—“
“He called the message agency that employs me. They told me to seek you out and take you to a certain address.”
“Have you been here before?” David began to pant.
“I follow directions well.” In a few moments he stopped in from of a dark two-story office building. “First door at the top of the stairs.”
David took the first step up and look at the man. “Aren’t you coming with me?”
“Why should I?”
David hoped he would remember the route back as he climbed the steps and knocked at the door.
“Come in.”
The voice sounded familiar. When he opened the door, he saw four men sitting at a table playing poker. A nearly empty bottle of tequila sat between them. One of the men was James Donohue. He looked up and smiled.
“What took you so long? Where’s your brother? This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted both of them—George to have fun with and Edward to be reassured I hadn’t really kidnapped George. I don’t want to play poker with Edward. You know what I’m trying to say, don’t you, Edward?”
“Poker’s not our game.”
“It’s not mine either.” He threw down his cards and looked at a short stout man. “How much do I owe you?”
The man muttered in Spanish an amount that even the Prince of Wales found exorbitant. James pulled a wad of bills out of this pocket and tossed it on the table.
Muchas gracias,” James slurred. “Now adios.”
After the men left, James waved at a chair opposite him. “Oh, I guess I should show proper respect to the Prince of Wales and bow.” He stood, bent over while trying to keep his balance and fell back into the chair.
“You’re drunk.”
“Like you don’t get drunk.” He pointed at the bottle. “And your brother’s a drunk. And worse.”
James reached for the bottle to empty its last drops. “I want to have fun. George and I were having great fun last fall. Everybody likes to have fun with George. I mean, everyone. Even your little friend Jorge has designs on your brother. Anyway, I like the way George tangos. Then my wife tugged on my rope and I had to go home.”
“Why did she let you come here?”
“Trade expo. Business, you know.”
“How much money will it take to make you leave George alone?”
“You buy me?” James spat tequila across the table. “The Wales family is a five and dive operation.” He had a crooked smile. “Get it? Five and dive? Woolworths? Five and dime?”
“You do know I represent the British Empire. We are a mighty killing machine.”
“Killing me?” James turned up the bottle, found it empty and threw it at David. “Get in line. My wife has already said she’s going to kill me. I am a dead man.”
The door swung open and the man in the tan uniform strode in.
James blinked his eyes and had trouble wrapping his lips around the words he wanted to say. “Who are you?”
“I have a message for you.”
“What?”
“Time to go home.” He punched James in the gut then delivered an uppercut to his chin which knocked him out. The man in the tan uniform threw him over his shoulder and marched downstairs. David followed. The man in the tan uniform whistled. A car pulled up. He opened the back door and laid James in. “To the pier. His boat sails in an hour.”
The car pulled away, and the man started walking away.
“You do this for a living, don’t you?” David called after him.
“Yes.”
“Do you take on quick side jobs? I pay very well.”
He stopped and turned around. “What do I have to do?”
“First, get us a cab to take us to Jorge Ferrara’s house. I’m beginning to think it’s not as safe a house as I first thought. Then wait for me outside. If you don’t see my brother and me in in five minutes, do what you just did. Knock out anyone who gets in the way, pick up my brother and get him out of there.”
The man smiled and whistled. A few minutes later the taxi arrived in front of Jorge’s mansion. David knocked at the door and the butler let him in.
“The master, Prince George and a guest are in the royal bedroom.”
“A guest?” David trotted up a marble staircase and went to the last door on the left. He knocked. “George? Jorge? Who’s in there with you?”
“It’s me!” A female voice sang out. “Join the fun!”
Damn. It’s Kiki. David opened the door to find all three of them naked in bed. He stopped. “What are you doing here?”
Kiki held up her silver syringe and squeezed some clear liquid poison through it—cocaine, heroin, morphine, whatever.
“I thought the Windsor family told you to leave George alone.” David sounded as imperious as his father.
“You said in London.” Kiki giggled. “This is Buenos Aires.”
David switched his attention to Jorge. “When I wired you about our visit I told you it was confidential.”
“I am only an Argentinian,” Jorge replied, running his fingers through George’s light brown hair. “What is this confidential?”
The man in the tan uniform stormed into the room. He went to the side of the bed where Jorge lay. Grabbing the playboy by the arm, he swung him off the bed. Jorge tried to rise and punch the intruder but the mercenary smashed his fist into Jorge’s nose. Jorge became preoccupied with stemming the flow of blood with the silk sheet now strewn on the floor.
“Kick the bitch out of bed.” David felt his face burning in righteous indignation.
The man looked at the prince. “I don’t hurt women.”
With fury in his heart, David stepped to the bed, wrapped his fingers around a clump of Kiki’s hair, pulled her off the bed and dumped her on the floor. “Don’t come hear my brother again, or you will regret it.”
The man in the tan uniform reached over, grabbed George’s naked limp body, tossed him over his shoulders and headed for the door. “Get his clothes,” he called back to David.
As they came down the staircase, the butler stood agape and opened the front door.
“Your royal highness—highnesses—and guest, are you leaving so soon?”
David followed the mercenary who carried George out the door.
“Gather our personal things together and pack them like a good chap. I’ll send someone—eventually—around to pick them up,” David called out to the butler.

Story From a Friend–Grandma’s Tomato Tub

Note: The author of this story is my new friend, Clyde J. Hady of Brooksville, Florida. His business Facebook is Hometown Electric. Check out his latest invention on You Tube.

Grandma was a big woman, at least that’s how I remember her. She was as tall as most of the men I saw, and more rotund. I don’t think she was really oversized, but she did a lot of what was termed as men’s work at that time. Her stern ways fit well with her build, and her disposition fit easily into the hard routine of everyday life. When Grandma whispered she was as gentle as any person I have ever known, but when Grandma spoke, I swear the whole town could hear, and the smart ones listened. She had a reputation that demanded respect from most men, and fear for most women. But she was gentle, honest, and fair. Unfortunately the only thing Grandma could ever bank on was her word, she never had anything else.
Life wasn’t easy for a woman on her own, and to this day I’m amazed at how well she did.
By the time I showed up, Grandma was working on her second set of children. There was me, I don’t remember where my parents were, and a whole passel of cousins. There were three cousins whose parents had died in a car accident, and two whose Momma went crazy after their Daddy had died in the war. We were there all the time, but there were others too, who would show up for days or weeks at a time. I never did know why, but I suspect Grandma was helping to ease the burden of unwanted responsibility. I never did hear Grandma say anything about the missing parents who weren’t dead, but she was always saying that we had to learn to be responsible, because she wouldn’t be around to help us. In retrospect, I feel a terrible shame for not fully understanding how much she was helping us at the time, but as children we just understood that others were not going to be responsible for us.
Grandma didn’t have real running water, just a pump in the front yard and the only hot water she had was the water she put over the fire. She had this kind of fire pit with a wall of stones around it, just the right size to set her tomato tub on. She called it a tomato tub because when tomatoes were in season she used it to can tomatoes with, but most of the time it was used for washing and cleaning. Once each week everyone took their turn in the tub, whether you needed it or not, no talking back either.
I remember when Tommy came to visit, it was during canning season and Grandma had been canning all week. But when Saturday came round she readied it for baths. We had a heck of a time finding Tommy. Seems someone had told him that Grandma liked canning things at some point during the week and he was bound and determined that Grandma was not going to can him. He didn’t care how fresh it would make him feel, he was not going to be canned.
When she finally got him into the tub and finished getting him cleaned up, she asked him, “Now that wasn’t so bad was it?”
His only retort was “I don’t like being canned!”
Grandma just smiled, but that was the last time Tommy spent the whole week with us, so I guess you could say he was only canned one time.

Into Himself

(Author’s note: For the record, I have nothing against pot and I like hippies. This story happens to be true however, and the person in question was a bit pretentious which I found funny.)
I once knew a pot-head hippie who lived in a tent on two acres of pine forest just outside of Austin, Texas. He had a pile of wood on the property which he claimed he was going to use to build a music studio, but I think he was more interested in cultivating his garden of marijuana plants instead. He had a nasty scar between the eyes which I tried not to stare at or ask any questions about.
He was the musical director of a play I was in, and after rehearsal one night he asked me for a ride home because his car was in the garage for repairs. When we arrived he invited me to walk through his woods to the tent for a glass of rotgut whiskey on the rocks. As he was pouring the cheap liquor he said he always gave something to anyone who did him a favor so they couldn’t accuse him of being ungrateful later. We discussed the possibility of writing an opera based on a play of mine which ended with my father snoring. He swore a snore was in the key of G flat. I swore I would never let myself get so bored that I would have this type of discussion with a pot-head hippie again.
“I guess you wonder where I got this scar,” he finally said.
Admitting my curiosity, I expected a story of a fight with a bunch of bikers. He wasn’t a biker himself. He was kind of puny but had a real sarcastic mouth on him. Most people smart enough to belong to Mensa usually do, which can provoke bikers to want to beat them up. But no, he responded, it happened right there on his happy two acres of wilderness.
“If you notice,” he said, pointing with his full glass of whiskey, “I have my phone attached to that tree over there. It didn’t used to be so close. Originally I had it on a tree by the road. I thought the longer it took for me to answer the phone the more likely unwanted callers would just hang up.”
I nodded. I had learned not to argue with a man who had an outdoor john, showered with a garden hose and bought a bag of ice every night to keep his bacon and eggs fresh. It was easier that way.
“Anyway, one night I heard the phone ring and I jumped out of bed and ran to answer it. I sleep naked so there I was at one with nature, the moon shining, the crickets chirping and me just as God made me. I felt at one with nature, running just like a wild animal through the trees. The only thing was, I forgot there was a low hanging limb between the phone and me. I hadn’t cut it because I figured anyone who really wanted to see me should have to go to the trouble of lifting the branch as he came down the path. It caught me right between the eyes. I couldn’t afford stitches so I just let it heal on its own.”
I guess he also forgot he was a whole lot taller than the average wild animal running through the woods at midnight. Actually, the average wild animal would have had enough sense to let the phone ring.

Story From a Friend–Shimmers of Memories

Note: The author of this story is my new friend, Clyde J. Hady of Brooksville, Florida. His business Facebook is Hometown Electric. Check out his latest invention on You Tube.

Debbie and I had discussed this possibility many times, but never really understood it. I’m not sure that it can be understood, prior to the experience itself. Perhaps because there are too many variables, perhaps because we are mere humans.

For us it began on a hot humid afternoon. My first vivid memory is of Debbie standing in her mother’s kitchen, among a multitude of boxes, arguing with her mother about which boxes would go along. Debbie looked at me as if to suggest that I should help to convince her mother about the logical thing to do. I was never good at suggesting logic to people concerned about feelings. I started carrying boxes to the car.

Debbie looked at me as though to suggest that I had just undermined all of her authority. Mom looked at Debbie as though to suggest that she could still demand the respect she deserved, even if Debbie didn’t want to give it to her. I carried boxes.

As I neared the end of the boxes Dad entered the room and began mulling around as though he expected to find something. Dad was in his late 70’s and looked every bit the part. He seldom noticed his untied shoes, his unbuttoned shirt, or his matted hair. His slack personal hygiene had not diminished his energy, and he was usually into something that Mother would scold him about. Mother was also in her late 70’s and although she looked tired and worn, there was a stateliness about her that suggested she had aged before her time.

“Now what are you looking for?” Mother snapped. Debbie, ever watchful of her father, gently pulled his arm back and proceeded to button his shirt.

“I already did that once!” retorted Mother. “He just doesn’t care.”

“I can do it again, Mother,” Debbie replied. Those were the last words that I heard spoken in Mom and Dad’s house. This was the day they would move in with us.

As we left Mom refused to look at the house; Dad wouldn’t have noticed anything if he had looked. Debbie watched the house even when it was no longer in sight, hoping that somehow watching would reverse the situation, hoping that watching would turn the memories of yesterday into the wishes of today, hoping that somehow watching would reverse the ravages of time.

As we all settled into the new situation, most of the boxes, which caused so much discussion, remained untouched. They were mostly trinkets and somehow seemed inconsequential. No one seemed to miss them; Dad didn’t miss anything, and Mom had not yet finished hurting.

My biggest job when I was home was to try to keep Dad busy, which to my surprise was easier than I would have imagined. We chanced to find out one evening that Dad became mesmerized by the same programs I enjoyed watching. I admit I am a learning channel nut. I find the programs fascinating and so does Dad.

It was about three weeks into the change that Dad sat down with me to watch another of our discovery programs about mountain sheep. Dad said, “We had them once.” That was the extent of the conversation that evening. It wouldn’t be hard to recall the revelation. There were so few that they were easy to remember.

About four days later upon seeing chickens running free in some third world country Dad said, “We had them too.”

It struck me immediately that he had some conception that I would automatically remember the start of the conversation four days prior. So it seemed only natural to ask, “How many did you have?” But I received no answer.

I had been listening to Dad’s revelations for about three months when it so happened that Mom ended up watching with us. She had watched with us before but this was the first time Dad spoke when she was there. It was a program about pigs in China, again Dad decided that he had raised them before.

“You did not!” retorted Mother. “They looked nothing like that!” With that she stormed out of the room.

To my surprise she returned with an old coffee can. She promptly sat next to Dad and opened the can. After a couple of minutes searching, she took a picture and said, “These are the kind we raised.”

Dad smiled and took the picture. “I liked them.” he said.

They spent the better part of two hours remembering the better times. Dad’s conversation was no more coherent than before, but his smile was. Mom didn’t even notice that he wasn’t always with her, she was too busy remembering when he was. For that small measure of time, life was as happy as it had ever been.

We’ve unpacked the glimmers, so that we might enjoy the shine. For Mom, Dad and all of us privy to the stories of a rich full life, time has allowed special moments to be remembered again. And a life once packed away, now shines for the world to see. Glimmers of memories brought into focus through Love, Patience, and the chance of a word.

Camping


(Author’s note: In honor of the summer camping season for families, the long weekends, the smells of grilling, the setting suns, the whistling and the laughter. Ah, the memories.)
After a long day of camping I lay in my tent alone looking through the flap at the navy blue sky filtered through patterns of oak branches. The family had walked down to the campground store to buy candy for the kids.
Whiffing, I knew the next campsite over was roasting hot dogs. On the other side someone else was grilling hamburgers and across the way the aroma of toasted marshmallows floated my way. We had been lazy and stopped at a restaurant for dinner after a long day of hiking a mountain to see a waterfall.
My legs still ached, and I thought I was getting a blister on my big toe. I didn’t want to complain because my wife had twisted her ankle last night after she tripped on the way back to the tent from the campground toilet. She made the trip up and down the mountain limping so I couldn’t say much about a little blister.
Cricket song was deafening among the trills of the birds. Most of the campers around us were keeping their voices down, which was a good sign for later. A couple of nights ago, one guy drank a few too many beers and sang out loudly, “I’m going white-water rafting tomorrow and the damn Little Pigeon River!” My wife sent me to the office the next office to complain but the manager said he had refunded their money and told them to leave. I was glad I didn’t have to listen to them anymore but I resented the jerk got a free campsite for a night. Maybe on our last night I could scream obscenities and get a refund too. I dismissed the thought. It wasn’t worth losing the sleep.
I stared at the leaves against the sky. If I could draw, it would make a great abstract painting of shades of blues. Then the stars started twinkling adding to the composition. Wouldn’t that make a nice painting for your bedroom wall? You could just stare at it until you drifted off to sleep. But with my luck it would look like a mess and I’d stay awake wondering why I thought I could paint in the first place.
Rolling over on the air mattress I searched for the bag of candy from out visit to Aunt Mahalia’s Kitchen. I hoped there would be some fudge or chocolate covered cherries left. No fudge but plenty of cherries. Life is good. I bit into the chocolate mound and slurped up the cream, saving the actual cherry for last. The soothing, mellow milk chocolate made me forget about the blister, and the tart sweet cherry made me forget the chocolate, if that were possible.
I heard familiar laughter come up the path. The family was back. I hoped they bought more fudge. My son was whistling the music to Star Wars. Anytime he was happy he whistled the entire score of the movie. My daughter giggled and talked at the same time. I never knew how she could do that. My wife said, “Let’s hurry up and get back. My foot is killing me.”
I paused to take in everything and store it for future reference. This was one of the good times.