Tag Archives: short story

Heather’s Ghost Nanny

Heather was a very precocious little five-year-old girl. She knew how to smile and giggle and always get exactly what she wanted. She and her family, mom, dad and brother, recently moved into a nice house with a swimming pool in a new town. She heard how her parents were very excited about the good price they got for the house, much lower than they expected. Heather’s bedroom and her brother’s bedroom were across the house from the master bedroom, so she thought she was going to be able to get away with a lot of naughty things after her family had gone to sleep.
That was before the first night she slipped out of bed after midnight to turn on the television to watch the shows her mom and dad didn’t want her to see. After she punched the on button and turned to sit on her bean bag chair, the television promptly turned itself off. Hmph, she thought to herself. That never happened before. So she stood and went back to punch the on button again but it went off even faster than it did before.
Frowning, Heather decided that wasn’t any fun so she went back to bed. A few days later a nice lady from next door came to welcome the new family to the neighborhood.
“Of course, you know about the Andersons,” she said.
“The couple who lived here before us,” Heather’s mom said.
“Yes,” the neighbor lady said.
“All we know is that their children seemed eager to sell the house,” Heather’s dad said. “They lowered the price very fast.”
“That’s because they both died in the house.”
Heather wasn’t really paying attention. She really wanted to go out to play but she knew she had to make a good impression on the neighbor. She might be giving out freshly baked cookies one day and Heather wanted to get one.
“Oh,” her parents said in unison.
“He died in his sleep in the master bedroom,” the neighbor said. “His wife died a year earlier.” She paused. “In the swimming pool.”
“What?”
“Mrs. Anderson was a sweet lady but she had a drinking problem. Went to AA meetings but it didn’t seem to do much good. When she went on a bender her husband could not stand to be around her. One night she was particularly out of control, so Mr. Anderson left the house and just sat in the car, waiting for her to pass out on the floor so he could go to bed. An hour later he heard no more banging about inside so he figured it was safe to come back in. It was then he saw her floating face down in the swimming pool. Evidently she had staggered out to the patio and fallen into the pool and was too drunk to get out. I don’t think he ever forgave himself. For the next year he just sat in a lawn chair, staring at the pool and smoking a cigar, until he finally died.”
“So that’s why we got the house cheap,” Heather’s dad said.
Heather was only vaguely aware of what all that really meant to her. After all, she was only a five year old girl. That night she got up after midnight to turn on the television again, and again it promptly turned itself off.
“Mrs. Anderson, is that you?” she whispered.
She could swear she felt a dripping wet hand firmly but gently pushed her toward her bedroom. Heather never tried to watch television again after midnight. As she grew up, however, Heather seemed to forget about Mrs. Anderson from time to time, until the dripping wet ghost decided to become her nanny.
When her girl friends came for a sleep over, Heather was never able to get the refrigerator door open so they could sneak ice cream. No matter how hard the girls tried, the door was stuck, until morning, that is, when her mom easily opened it to get out milk for the girls.
By the time Heather turned thirteen, all the boys in the neighborhood knew the way to her house. She had parties all the time but when she and one of the boys wanted private time in her room, the door would never shut. Each time they tried to close it, the door would swing open and stay open.
By the time she was eighteen, Heather had started going steady with one boy after another. She was always the one to call it off and always had another boy willing to be her plaything for awhile. One night, on the front porch when Heather was saying good night to her latest boyfriend, he decided to get a little closer than she wanted.
Suddenly he felt a hard slap, right between his shoulder blades.
“How did you do that?” he asked, wincing in pain.
“Do what?” Heather asked.
“Slap me on the back,” he said.
Heather told him to turn around and, sure enough, there was a wet hand print on his shirt.
“Oh that’s my ghost, Mrs. Anderson. She thinks she’s my nanny.”
Needless to say, she never saw him again. A couple of years passed and finally Heather met a nice young man. One night he shyly started talking about marriage. He jumped and Heather asked what happened.
“I could swear I felt someone kiss me.” He felt his cheek. It was wet.
“My nanny ghost, Mrs. Anderson, must like you very much.”
By the next spring, Heather married her nice young man and had the wedding reception by the swimming pool. When the pictures were developed, there stood the beautiful bride and her groom, and standing behind them, very clear in the photograph, was an elderly woman, drenching wet and chugging on a bottle of gin.

The Turtledove

Everything was looking up on our farm just outside Cumby, Texas, during the Great Depression. Pa, Ma, me and my brother Bill worked hard to keep the homestead going. Finally, that fall a big crop of cotton was about to pop open. On top of that, Ma had just had a baby, a little girl just like she always wanted.
For the first time in a couple of years Pa had to hire a family to help bring in the cotton bolls before they rotten in the fields. The Jones family had worked for us before. The father was a big strapping man, somebody you wouldn’t want to sass. The mother was short, kinda rolly polly with a big bosom and a big heart. And, boy, did she love to talk. She could practically talk the cotton bolls off the stalks. Which was good because it made the day go by faster under the hot Texas sun and it made you forget how much your back ached from dragging that long cotton bag all day.
The Joneses had two boys that we used to play with but they were almost grown up now and didn’t look like they’d care to bother with a couple of li’l ol’ boys like Bill and me.
Anyway, one day, halfway through the cotton fields Miz Jones finished one long story about the sickness her boys had been through but they were just fine now ‘cause they was big strong healthy boys and she worked hard to keep them that way. Fed them good food, made sure they got plenty of milk, meat and greens.
“And, of course,” she added in a low, secret-like voice, “you got to keep them away from the magic.”
“The magic?” I asked.
“Oh, there’s all kinds of magic in the world,” Miz Jones said. “And all of it is bad. Some folks says there’s good magic out there to protect the babies but I says all magic is bad. If it ain’t come from the Lord it’s bad.”
“Is that so?” Bill said. I could tell he was busting a gut trying not to laugh out loud. “Like witches and such? Potions and voodoo?”
“Well, there’s bad folks out there. I don’t say that. They can do some mighty hurt with them poultice bags, but the worst magic comes from old Mother Nature herself. She’s done got tricks up her sleeve, ooh. You gotta be on your guard day and night.”
“Like what?” Bill hung his head low so she wouldn’t see his smile.
“There’s a lotta bad magic out there but I say just about the worst has to be from the turtledove.”
“The turtledove?” I asked.
“Now I tell you, if you ever have a turtledove get in the house, nestling in the rafters going, ‘Coo…coo,’ you done had it. There’s going to be a death in the family for sure. No doubt about it. Once you hear a turtledove cooing in the house, boy, it’s all over. Somebody’s gonna die.”
Bill and me, we thought we done real good in not guffawing at Miz Jones. Ma had always said it wasn’t nice to laugh at somebody to their face. Besides, those Jones boys looked like they could beat the tar out of us if we made fun of their ma.
The next day Pa pulled us aside. “You boys been working so hard in the fields that you deserved a day off to go hunting.”
So Ma packed us a lunch, we oiled and polished our .22 rifles, and off we went through the woods. We got us some squirrels and rabbits. Mostly we just lollygagged about, joking and laughing about anything and everything. The day was just about over when we heard it:
Coo…coo…
Bill and me looked at each other and smiled. The best joke of all. We stalked lightly through the brush until we spotted the nest. Mama turtledove had just flowed off, looking for food. There they were, three babies cooing their heads off. We gently stuck out our hands into the nest and scooped up one of the chicks. We hurried back home before the others came out of the cotton fields. We snuck into the field hands’ cabin and placed the baby turtledove up in the rafters.
We grinned during supper.
“Well, you boys must have had a good time hunting,” Ma said as she ladled out the squirrel and rabbit stew made from our catch.
“Yes, Ma,” we mumbled.
“That’s good.” She cuddled our baby sister on her lap as she settled in to eat. “Good times. We’re having good times right now.”
Just then there was a loud rapping at the door.
“Mr. Cowling! Mr. Cowling!” It was Mr. Jones. “Come quick! Miz Jones is terrible upset!”
“What on earth…” Pa muttered as he pushed away from the kitchen table.
“Can we come too, Pa?” Bill asked.
“I guess.” He looked at Ma. “Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. They done finished their supper.” She stood holding the baby close to her. “I’m putting the baby down to bed.”
So Bill and me scampered behind Pa to the Jones’ cabin. When we walked in Miz Jones was waving her arms, her eyes wide with fright.
“Oh, Mr. Cowling! Somebody’s going to die!”
We tried not to smile because those Jones boys was watching us mighty hard. Mr. Jones was trying to put his arms around his wife but she wouldn’t have none of it.
“There’s a turtledove in the rafters just cooing away. I swear somebody’s going to die, Mr. Cowling, I just know it.”
Pa stood tall and held up his hand. Miz Jones got quiet right away.
“If someone who is not a member of the family takes the turtledove out of the house, the curse is broken.” Pa then climbed up in the rafters and retrieved the little turtledove.
“Oh, praise the Lord!” Miz Jones said, her hands going to her cheeks. “Thank you, Mr. Cowling, thank you, sir. You done saved our lives.”
With much pomp and ceremony Pa held the turtledove, which was still cooing, in his hands high above his head.
“Hallelujah, Mr. Cowling. Thank you, Mr. Cowling,” we heard Miz Jones say we closed the door behind us.
When we got back to the house Pa placed the cooing baby turtledove in the kitchen sink. The bird began cooing again. He turned to stare hard at Bill and me.
“Are you boys behind all this?” he asked. His jaw was tied up in a knot.
“It was just a joke,” Bill mumbled.
“These are good, hard-working people,” Pa lectured us. “We’re lucky to have them working for us. They can’t help it if they’re superstitious. If you pull anything like this again I’ll—“
Ma came running into the kitchen from their bedroom. “Pa! Come quick! The baby’s not breathing!”
He ran into the room and leaned over the crib. As he put his mouth over the baby’s mouth trying to breathe life into her, Ma fell to her knees sobbing.
Then Bill and me, we heard something behind us.
Coo…coo…
We looked at each other.
Pa glared at us and shouted, “Get that turtledove out of this house right now!”
Bill and me grabbed the turtledove and just as we crossed the threshold of the front door, our baby sister sucked in a lot of air and started crying loud. Ma and Pa cried too, picking her up, kissing all over her little face. Bill and me didn’t say nothing, just stared at each other.
Coo…coo…
Maybe Miz Jones knew more than we did about the magic of Mother Nature.
The cooing of the turtledove.

The Halloween Tree

“Back in the old days,” my father used to say to me, “we didn’t git no candy on Halloween. Warn’t no such thing as tricker-treatin’ or whatever you darned kids call it. Puttin’ on some fool costume and prancin’ around the streets, why that’s just plain sissy.”
I got that lecture every year when the air turned crisp and the kids at school chirped about what they were going to wear for Halloween and what candy they wanted in their trick or treat bags. I suspected my father held his high falutin’ principles against childish behavior on October 31st because he didn’t want to spend money on a costume or candy.
“So there wasn’t Halloween at all?” I asked.
“Sure there was Halloween, but we didn’t go hog wild over it like they do today. Folks would have barn parties, and all the neighbor kids would come over. We’d play games right up to midnight.”
“What kind of games?”
“Oh, bobbin’ for apples. Nothin’ fancy.”
My face perked up. “Bobbing for apples? That sounds like fun.”
I saw my father’s eyes widened as he thought about the price of apples.
“Oh, you wouldn’t like it. It warn’t no fun at all. You got your face wet and choked on the water. No fun at all.”
“Then what did you do for fun?”
“Well, some boys used to knock over outhouses Halloween night.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun to me.” I imagined the stench of human excrement spewing from the overturned outhouse, and I gagged. “Did you do that?”
“Only once.”
“What happened?”
“I got caught.”
“How?”
“Well, pa came up to me the next day and started talkin’ about how George Washington told his pappy the truth about choppin’ down the cherry tree. Then I asked me if I had knocked over the outhouse. I owned up to it, and he turned me over his knee and started wallopin’ my behind. I says, ‘Pa, George Washington’s pappy didn’t spank him when he told the truth about choppin’ down the cherry tree.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but George Washington’s pappy warn’t up in that cherry tree when he chopped it down.’”

Seance in Black

Halloween of 1890 surprised Arthur Conan Doyle with a mixture of happiness and mysticism.
He was the guest of honor at a party hosted by Ward Locke, the publisher of his first Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlett. Ladies, all of them in black evening gowns highlighted with orange flowers or brooches and necklaces, were particularly attentive, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles on Doyle’s dinner jacket.
“What are you going to do, Mr. Doyle,” Ward Locke’s wife cooed, “when you become the most famous writer in London? You won’t have a moment’s peace.” Her eyes, an uneventful shade of brown, fluttered without producing their intended purpose of luring the single gentlemen with her non-existent wiles.
“I am certain I shall find a suitable safe harbor in the storm of public attention.”
Mrs. Locke practically swooned over the more sensual meanings of Doyles’ metaphor.
“Among my many new-found friends and acquaintances, such as your husband and yourself, indeed all the fine people who are here tonight.”
“Oh. Of course.” She stood erect in the middle of her collapse into the romance of her thoughts. Recovering, she smiled with due temperance. “And I’m sure your friends from the hospital will be a great comfort to you.”
A woman wearing too much rouge made good use of her ample hips to force Mrs. Locke from the inner sphere of Doyle’s immediate company. “You mustn’t ignore your other guests, dear. I shall entertain our wonderful young gentlemen for now. I am Mrs. Wickham, a dear friend of the Lockes. They tell me you are a doctor.” She paused a moment to admire his physical appearance. “My, you must have an impressive bedside manner.”
At that moment Doyle caught the gaze of his publisher and turned the corners of his lips into a smile that expressed mild desperation. Locke smiled in return, lifted his glass and clinked it with a dessert spoon.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the man of the hour, Arthur Conan Doyle!” Locke announced. After an appropriate pause for all the guests to murmur their approval, he continued, “We wish him continued success so suddenly found at the young age of thirty-one.” Everyone took turns commenting upon his promising career unfolding in front of him, remarkable for a young man of thirty-one years.”
“Oh, yes. I remember being thirty-one,” a voice boomed from the shadows. “Great expectations can wither on the vine as time passes, leaving you with sad dreams of what might have been.”
Holiday chatter died as all heads turned to watch a tall, swarthy man step toward Doyle, who suspected the man to be in his middle forties and under the influence of liquid spirits. A shrill giggle shattered the silence.
“You must forgive my friend, Mr. Doyle,” Mrs. Wickham said with forced cheer as she left his side to join the handsome stranger and grab the man’s arm, pulling him back. “His attempts at humor are an acquired taste. He’s Nathan Ladderly, my neighbor at the Nickleby Arms Hotels. The dear man has no family so I thought I would invite him to our soiree–“
“Mrs. Wickham finds me attractive and creates excuses to be in my company,” Ladderly interjected.
“Oh, Nathan, you’re so wicked,” Mrs. Wickham said with a laugh.
A second giggle erupted, this time from Mrs. Locke. “Ward, darling, what is a Halloween party without parlor games appropriate for this evening of ghouls and goblins?” She pushed her way through the crowd holding a small square table on which sat a mysterious wooden board. “This game has just been invented. They call it a Ouija board. It’s a way to communicate with the dead,” Mrs. Locke chirped. “Mr. Ladderly, Mr. Doyle, Mrs. Wickham, please pull up chairs, and we shall see what spirits we may conjure.”
“This will be droll,” Ladderly muttered as he sat at the table.
“I am open to spiritualism, though I am not completely convinced,” Doyle announced with a tight smile. He sat opposite Ladderly.
Tittering, the two women filled in the gaps and Mrs. Locke placed a wooden disk on three small balls in the middle of the board. On one side was a pointer and in the middle a hole.
“Ward, darling, lower the gas lamps,” she said. “We must have the proper atmosphere. Now, everyone place your fingertips lightly on this little wooden pointer. It’s called a planchette.”
As the lights dimmed, Ladderly leaned his head, almost touching his cheek to the board. “Ouija, Ouija, Ouija, is anyone there?”
All the guests gathered around the table gasped as the planchette moved suddenly to Yes.
Ladderly pulled his hands away. “This is ridiculous. I want nothing to do with this.”
The planchette jerked over to No.
“Please, Nathan, dear,” Mrs. Wickham pleaded. “Open your mind. Participate. For my sake.”
“Why should I do anything for your sake?” Ladderly’s tone boarded on insolence.
Doyle leaned forward. “You seem nervous, Mr. Ladderly. Do you have anything to fear?”
“Of course not,” he replied in a huff. He placed his fingers back on the wooden pointer.
“I’m so flustered,” Mrs. Lock admitted. “I don’t know what to ask.”
“Are you trying to communicate with a specific person?” Doyle asked.
The planchette moved to Yes.
“Is it me?”
Again Yes.
“Why?” Doyle continued.
The wooden disk quickly moved around the board stopping to reveal specific letters in the hole. It spelled murder.
“Oh, Mr. Doyle,” Ladderly sneered. “How obvious. I insult you, and you accuse me of murder.”
“My fingers are barely on this device. Those standing over my shoulder can attest that. And why do you assume the board is speaking specifically about you out of all the people in this room?”
The pointer again moved to Yes.
“Oh, this is impossible!” Ladderly said with a hiss. “I refuse to continue with this charade.”
“No, I think we should continue,” Locke announced as many of his male guests moved to stand around Ladderly’s chair.
Again the planchette floated over the letters. I am Dickens.
Gasps and twitters spread through the room.
Someone murdered Drood.
“How foolish,” Ladderly said. “That was a work of fiction.”
Real.
“Then who did kill Edwin Drood?” Doyle asked.
Neville Landless.
“He was the young man from India who was enthralled with Drood’s fiancé Rosa Bud,” Doyle clarified. “Dickens was writing the novel and publishing each chapter in the newspaper as he finished it. Before he could complete his work, he died. Literary circles still discuss who the murderer might have been.”
“Everyone knows Drood’s uncle did it,” Ladderly added nervously.
The pointer moved to No.
“Is Neville Landless in this room?” Doyle asked, staring at Ladderly.
Yes.
“N.L. Neville Landless. N.L. Nathan Ladderly,” Mrs. Wickham said as though the entire plot had been revealed to her.
“These parlor games have gone too far!” Ladderly tried to stand, but several hands pushed him back down.
“Put your fingers back on the planchette, Mr. Ladderly,” Mrs. Locke said in a flat tone. “Perhaps you can handle your destiny.”
“Is Nathan Ladderly actually Neville Landless?” Doyle asked.
Yes.
“So he killed Edwin Drood?”
Yes. The disk’s hole highlighted other letters. Me too.
“No!” Ladderly screamed.
“Mr. Dickens, did Mr. Ladderly know you were about to incriminate him?” Doyle said.
Yes.
“Nonsense! Why didn’t he go directly to Scotland Yard?” Ladderly demanded. “Why write it as a novel?”
“Obviously he had no evidence that would hold up in court. Once he published his novel, the public outcry would be deafening. Of course, he had to change names,” Doyle explained. “Nathan Ladderly became Neville Landless. Edwin Drood… Anyone remember the disappearance of a man with the initials E.D. around the time of Dickens’ death? No matter. Scotland Yard will know.”
Yes, the Ouija board responded.
“Elementary.”

Letters

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado
July 8, 1895
123 Main St.
Enid, Oklahoma

My Dear Wife,
I miss you terribly and hope the company will soon recognize my talents and promote me to vice president in charge of sales so I may enjoy your company more often. With luck, I shall return to you by the middle of August. The weather in Colorado is pleasant enough but I would sacrifice my comfort to be under the torrid Oklahoma sun with you and the children. Tell the children I shall take them on a great camping adventure before school starts. How is Edward Junior recuperating from his bout of chicken pox? I must be off to my next appointment soon in a small town called Golden. It reminds me of your lovely locks.
With love,
Your Husband

Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

July 8, 1895
321 Main St.
Waxahachie, Texas

My Dear Wife,
I miss you terribly and hope the company will soon recognize my talents and promote me to vice president in charge of sales so I may enjoy your company more often. With luck, I shall return to you by the first of August. The weather in Colorado is pleasant enough but I would sacrifice my comfort to be under the torrid Texas sun with you and the children. Tell the children I shall take them on a great camping adventure before school starts. How is Edwina recuperating from her bout of measles? I must be off to my next appointment in a nearby town called Red Bud. It reminds me of your lovely locks.
With Love,
Your Husband

321 Main St.
Waxahachie, Texas

July 18, 1895
Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

My Dear Husband,
I am quite confused. We live in Texas, not Oklahoma and we have a daughter Edwina, not a son Edward Junior. I have red hair, not blonde. Edwina is terribly afraid of the outdoors and the little creatures that inhabit it so she would not enjoy a camping trip. She had chicken pox, not measles. I reread your letter several times thinking I must have misunderstood it. As you have pointed out to me several times I do have a tendency to misunderstand the simplest of statements. I will continue my sessions with Dr. Fitzmorgan in Dallas. I’m sure he will straighten this out for me.
With Love,
Your Wife

123 Main St.
Enid, Oklahoma

Aug. 4, 1895
Black Swan Hotel
Denver, Colorado

To My Soon-To-Be Former Husband,
Don’t bother to come home, you lying, cheating scoundrel. You should have realized you were not clever enough to have two wives at one time. To refresh your memory, I am the blonde-haired woman living in Oklahoma with our son Edward Junior, who by the way had measles not chicken pox. I exchanged several telegraphs with the lady residing in Waxahachie, Texas. She has canceled all her appointments with her doctor in Dallas and has engaged a lawyer. I have also hired a lawyer. Please expect a letter from the main office of your company stating you have been dismissed from your job because of a complete lack of morals. I must be off now to visit my mother and to apologize. She was right about you.
With absolutely no love,
Your Soon-To-Be Former Wife

Hope

“Old age is a slow downward spiral into the abyss. Fighting the inevitable is futile. No doubt about it, life will knock you on your ass and there’s not a thing you can do about it. However, complete surrender means the acceptance of the end without hope. Life without hope is unbearable.” The old man finished his glass of white wine and looked around the table at the young men who appeared to be hanging on his every word. “Anybody want another beer?”
“Oh, yes sir.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The young men, all in their early twenties, smiled and nodded. The old man motioned to the bartender.
“I want another white wine, and give each of these fine gentlemen the beer of their choice.” He waited until all the orders were taken. “Personally, I don’t know the difference between one beer and another. I think I would gag if I tried to drink one. Oh, this is not to impugn the taste of any of you gentlemen. It’s a bit like Bill Clinton when he said he couldn’t inhale marijuana. I knew exactly what he meant. I couldn’t swallow cigarette smoke. Made me gag.”
The drinks arrived, and a low murmur overtook their corner of the bar.
“The reason I cannot drink beer is entirely psychological,” he continued as he sipped his wine. “My brother was an alcoholic—no, a drunk. He didn’t go to the meetings so he couldn’t be an alcoholic. He sat at home and drank one beer after another and told me how I was going to be a complete failure in life.” He took another sip. “He was dead a week before any of the neighbors noticed they hadn’t seen him. Now I can drink almost any kind of liquor. Really like a nice margarita or anything with rum. Southern Comfort makes me sick to my stomach though. Wine is nice. It’s a shame this place doesn’t have a full liquor license.”
The old man looked at his wristwatch and squinted. “I can’t read the damned time. My wife bought me this watch because it looked pretty. It doesn’t make any difference if the watch is pretty if the numbers on the damned face are too small to read. What time is it?”
“Almost nine o’clock, sir,” one of the young men said.
“Oh my goodness,” the old man replied with a jostle, glancing at the bartender. “Will you please bring me the bill? My wife will be here soon to pick me up. The woman has the silly idea I shouldn’t be driving after I’ve had a couple glasses of wine.” He looked toward the bar again. “And add another round of beers for my young friends here.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“We appreciate it, sir.”
“There are some old farts who say the younger generation isn’t worth a damn, but they’re wrong. You young men listen to me without ever interrupting. Do you know how often I get interrupted at home? All the time, that’s how often. Anyway, I hope to see you all next week at the same time.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Our pleasure, sir.”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you decide it’s not worth the free beer to have to listen to this old fart,” he said, standing, “and not bother to show up.”
“Oh no, sir.”
“Not at all, sir.”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t show up, but appreciate it if you do.” He looked at them and smiled. “There’s always hope.”

Love

“Ugh.” Ralph sat up in his recliner.
“Uh?” Gertie lowered her newspaper.
“Ugh.” He waved in the direction of the television remote control.
“Oh.” She stretched her arm across the sofa to retrieve it. Then she tossed it to him.
“Uhum.”
“Ah.” She returned her attention to the newspaper.
Ralph clicked the television on and turned to professional wrestling. “Ah!”
“Wha?”
“Uh?”
“Nuh uh.”
“Aww.”
“Nuh uh!”
“Sheez.” Ralph began to channel surf. He stopped on a station showing NASCAR. “Hmm?”
“Nuh uh.”
“Shee.”
Ralph continued to click until Home Shopping Network showed up.
“Unh! Unh!” Gertie bounced on the sofa.
“Oh sheez no!”
“Bthpt!” Gertie glared at Ralph and then jerked the newspaper up to cover her face, almost ripping it.
“Hmph!” Ralph turned off the television and threw the remote control down. He looked up at the ceiling. After a moment he sighed and started tapping his fingers on the arm of the recliner. He looked over at Gertie. “Hmm?” He paused, waiting for a reply. “Hmm?”
Finally he stood and walked over to the sofa and sat next to Gertie, leaning into her. “Hmm?”
“Nuh uh!” Gertie kept her newspaper between her and Ralph.
He nudged her again. When he received no response he put his lips up to her ear.
“Boogly woogly,” he whispered.
“Nuh uh!”
“Oh, boogly woogly.” His voice took on a pitiful tone as Ralph scooted closer.
“Meh!” Gertie elbowed him in the gut.
Bending over, Ralph let out, “Ow!” He wiggled back a little. “Boogly woogly?” Again she ignored him. “Oh boo hoo, boo hoo hoo.”
“Oh sheez.” She put down her newspaper to look at him.
“Boogly woogly?”
She smiled. “Oh poopy doopy.”
Ralph put his arms around Gertie. “Boogly woogly! Boogly woogly!”

Marriage

Sir Thomas More had come to terms with his future. In the morning he would be executed for not acknowledging the legality of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the dissolution of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. For many years he reaped the benefits of being the friend of the King of England, and now faced the consequences of adhering to his principles of faith.
As he prayed to thank God for his blessings of a good wife and a loyal daughter, More heard the clanking of the key in his Tower of London cell. As he turned to see who was visiting him at this late hour, his jaw dropped opened. Before him stood his sovereign lord Henry.
“I am interrupting your prayers,” Henry said. “You must forgive me.”
“You are forgiven.” More tried to hide the irony which flitted across his face.
“Actually, I have spent the day in prayer myself.” He approached More. “Please let me help you to your feet.”
The king gently put his large hands on the prisoner’s elbows, and they settled on the small bed in the corner. At this point Henry embraced his friend and whispered into his ear.
“The Lord has revealed to me the truth. I don’t know why I did not see it myself months ago. We are both sinners, Thomas, and as your king and as the Defender of the Faith, the responsibility lies with me.”
More had never heard Henry speak with such humility before. He tried to calm his heart which was about to explode. Was the king going to release him to return to the life he loved with his wife and daughter? Such were the essence of miracles.
“My Lord, you are not obligated to say one word more,” he whispered. “You are shaming me with your penance.”
Henry stood and walked to the far wall, bowed his head for a moment before turning to face More. Tears stained his cheeks.
“God explained to me why you could not sign the declaration. I cannot hold your feelings against you. Arise. You are a free man.”
Smiling, More stood and went to his friend, extending his hand. Within the hour he would embrace his wife.
“Yes, Thomas, I now realize the real reason you opposed my marriage to Queen Anne. You are jealous. You cannot accept the fact that I do not love you the way you love me.”
More came to an abrupt stop. “What?”
“You must realize I cannot commit another sin against God. I was wrong to marry my dead brother’s wife, and it would be equally wrong to love another man. It is an abomination.”
“What?” More had not slept well while residing in the Tower of London. His appetite had vanished. Surely he had misunderstood what the king said.
“I cannot blame you. Who does not love me?” Henry spread his arms to put his large frame on display. They all lust after me. The king of France. The princes of Germany. Even the bishop of Rome. I have to admit it. Now if you were a woman I could take you as my mistress.”
“What?”
“Don’t worry. No one will ever know. I want to protect you against any acts of jealousy from the lords and earls.” Henry nodded. “Oh yes, they covet me too.”
“What?”
“Oh dear. I have upset you. I suppose you might have preferred going to your death with the impossible dream intact that one day you might worship at this altar.”
“What?”
“You must never touch the royal scepter. You must never hold the crown jewels. You must never experience the divine right of kings.”
“You must be crazy.” More had his own revelation from God.
“Is it madness to save this temple of God only for the queen?”
“What?”
“I cannot stand to see your disappointment.” Henry began to remove his ermine robe. “Quickly take off your clothing. I will mount you tonight, but only once.”
More clenched his thin coat around him. “Oh hell no.”
“Very well. Once a month. But no more than that. I do have my principles.”
“I don’t think you understand. I love my wife very much. She just left here a few hours ago. She was very upset. I had to comfort her, and I’m the one dying in the morning.”
“Hurry. Anne is expecting me back in her bed by midnight.”
“My daughter really has her heart set on receiving my head and carrying it around with her for the rest of her life. She would be extremely disappointment if she didn’t have it in her purse by tomorrow night.”
“But you belong to me.” Henry began to undo his waistcoat.
“Of course, my heart belongs to you. As the hearts of all good Englishmen belong to their king. But my head belongs to my daughter.”
Henry stopped to observe More closely. “I’m beginning to suspect you don’t really want all this.” His hands roamed across his body.
“I think you’ve bedded one too many women who don’t exactly have the cleanest bodies in the kingdom. You got knocked upside the head in one too many jousting matches. You’ve chugalugged one too many bottles of wine.”
“I think you’re the crazy one.” Henry huffed as he quickly retrieved his robe. “Every man, woman and child in England wants me. Everybody knows it.”
“Everybody knows you’re crazy as a loon, but they’re afraid to say it to your face.”
“That is treason! I will have your head for insulting the king!”
“Just make sure my daughter ends up with it by the end of the day. Thank you.”

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.