Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a homeless person? Why they are the way they are? The forgotten society makes little splash in the media unless they either do something newsworthy, or are the victims of some grievous crime. The guy sleeping on a sidewalk, whom everybody thinks is a passed out drunk; the person sitting in the park mumbling to himself: who are they really?
I wondered as well about those people who have no support, or don’t want any support and why. So I wrote this as a short story to remember them and what I think goes thorough some of their minds. They number in the hundreds of thousands, and we can’t ignore them. But what can we really do to help them? It’s a question society needs to answer as a whole.
The man woke earlier than usual and knew something was different. He was totally aware of his surroundings, and though he could not define the difference he felt, he knew it was there. He tried to pull it out of his subconscious mind into his conscious, but couldn’t. They told him it didn’t matter, but he knew instinctively it did. As he lay on his mattress, he listened carefully to the outside environment and heard the usual clatter: a siren in the distance, a dog barking, the screech of brakes and a horn honking, but no voices. He rarely heard voices; where he lived other humans had avoided for years.
He slowly lifted the blanket he always covered his head with when he slept and saw it was starting to get light out. He looked around at his surroundings. He noticed nothing amiss, nothing out of place. All four walls intact; his collection of paperback books still carefully stacked no more than three high. His three exits, each secured and unseen by the outside world. They told him that was as he would find it. But he knew deep down something had changed. He knew deep down they were wrong this time. But no matter how hard he tried, that something alluded him.
He remembered back many years ago when a man or a woman told him they were not real. Unless he recognized it, they would take over his life. He knew they were not real, but he still listened and conversed with them. He did not know who they were, or even if they were ghosts of his past, but still he listened and conversed. He accepted the situation because that was the way it was, and it kept him safe.
When he found this place many years ago, they told him he must enclose himself in a quiet atmosphere. So much so internal noise must be forbidden, and he complied. Nothing in his space was allowed that made sounds. He’d carpeted the floor with layers of foam and soft cloth, and had tried many kinds of shoes until he found a pair that allowed him to walk without hearing anything. He was good at finding things people threw away.
He knew enough to allow a free exchange of air so he wouldn’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning, but didn’t know how he knew. Outside sounds were allowed because they could warn him of impending danger. He vaguely remembered a time when some people used the area downstairs one night. He sat quietly in fear of them finding him, but they never did, nor did they ever come back.
His memory was sporadic at best. Sometimes he could see himself sitting in a large chair, with two small children bouncing and laughing on his knees. Sometimes he saw a beautiful woman leaning over him and saying something he couldn’t hear. He sometimes remembered times when noise was good, and he was surrounded by it. But now he avoided it, and didn’t know why, except they told him to.
His world was set: he woke up at the same time, although he didn’t know what time; he just knew it was always the same. He left, never using the same exit two days in a row, and did his daily business in another abandoned building close by. It still had running water. He would then make his way to his usual route, collecting food a few of the merchants always left for him. He never spoke to or thanked them, and they didn’t seem to mind; it was as it was, and he didn’t question it.
He walked the same streets and avoided people whenever he saw them, which wasn’t often. Once and awhile a police car would stop and the policeman would ask if he was doing okay. He would always nod yes, and move on. He remembered one time when a policeman started questioning him, his partner stopped him and they left. That bothered him, but they said not to worry; he’d done just fine.
On this different day, he waited until he thought it was time and left to do his business. He looked carefully at the outside world, looking for that difference, but noticed nothing. After finishing up at the other building, he started his routine, and all went well. He was happy the merchants left him food, and made him think he was wrong about it being different that day. He walked the same streets in the same pattern he’d walked for years, and noticed nothing different. He stopped at the same park he stopped at every day and ate part of his food, saving some for later, and some for the same dog that visited him every day there. He never talked to the dog, and the dog didn’t stay long. Just enough to eat and receive a few scratches from him.
Upon returning to his room, he felt that same sense of difference he felt that woke him up early. They told him it was nothing to worry about, so he tried to put it out of his mind. He settled down for the night, choosing his copy of John Steinbecks “Travels With Charley,” a book he’d read many times, but forgot soon after. He read two chapters, being extra careful to make no noise turning the pages. He finished the food the merchants left him, put the book away, lay down and covered his head with his blanket. He felt more tired than he’d felt in a long time. He soon fell asleep and dreamt there was a beautiful woman standing over of him, smiling down, with two small children holding her hands. He knew they looked familiar, and a feeling of joy washed over him as a spark of recognition started entering his mind. He heard both girls giggle as they held out their hands to him. He reached up, knowing in his heart something wonderful was about to happen, and took their hands in his.
“Have they identified the man yet?” asked the reporter.
“Yes, his name was Roy Sternman. He was the husband and father of the wife and two daughters killed in that home invasion ten years ago. He arrived at his home just as the killers were leaving. They shot him in the head, but he survived. The doctors said there was some brain damage, and thought the loss of his family plus the damage to his brain pushed him over the edge. He disappeared not long after, and hadn’t been seen since. He evidently passed away in his sleep. One of the policemen, who knew his routine, reported not seeing him for a week.
One of the merchants who left him food knew about where he stayed, so we sent a team out looking and found him in a hidden room on the second floor of an old abandoned building. The smell led us there. We found his old drivers license with him, and, after checking it out, figured out who he was. We checked his finances and found he was well off, but never used any of it. We’ll bury him next to his wife and daughters. A sad ending to a sad life. Sometimes life just sucks.”
I write a bit of poetry from time to time. Nothing special, but it does let my itty-bitty brain roam. So here’s nada:
‘Twas no yellow brick road
I was left pursuing.
This fragment of thought
Could become my undoing.
It drifted in memory;
Then floated on out,
Like a leaf on the water;
Its existence in doubt.
The path looked inviting,
Yet harbored no youth.
While its beauty swept fair;
It was marred by the truth.
I stepped on its course,
While trusting in lies.
To believe in such things,
Left me lost and unwise.
The light held forgiveness,
Yet the shadows held hate.
Was my future to walk here?
Was this my grand fate?
As the darkness closed in,
And the demons held sway,
I found just enough courage
To turn ’round and walk away.
Sam never really climbs out of a car, he sort of slithers, if you know what I mean. Sam, you see, is a snake of the first order. He has absolutely no moral standards whatsoever. If he wants you gone, you are gone. Total erasure…you never were.
I’ve worked for Sam for some years now, fifteen, maybe twenty; who knows? He hired me out of college after I got kicked out for pounding on one of the professors for messing up a couple of girls I knew outside a strip club. He said he liked the way I handled myself. Said he watched the whole thing go down, and thought the way I broke the guys face up was real professional, and he could use a guy like me.
I started out doing some collecting for him, and worked my way up to being his personal bodyguard. He insisted I learn martial arts, and when Sam insists on something, you did it. I took six straight years of Aikido. You’ve seen movies with Steven Seagal and how he uses the other guys moves to beat the shit out of him? That’s basically what I know. Little strength involved, very fast and very effective. What it means is I can take on more than one guy, and still protect my boss. I’m very good at it.
I’ve always been loyal to Sam, even though I know he ain’t got no scruples. He pays me well, I even got medical, dental, and a vacation every year. Matter of fact, I was getting ready to fly down to Florida to see this lady friend of mine today. So I got nothing to complain about.
But a serious problem jumped up, and it don’t look good for me. It started when Freddy, the Bull, came by to see me. Freddy got the name “Bull” because of how he was hung like, well, you know, like a bull.
Now Bull has always been a stand up guy, know what I mean? If Bull told you something, it had either happened, or was probably going to happen. You could bank on that. Freddy’s word was gold. Bull’s only problem was that sometimes his brain didn’t think things all the way through.
Anyway, Bull came over to my place, which in itself was unusual, as people usually went to his. I hear the doorbell ring, I answer the door, and there’s Bull, big as life, standing there with a shit eatin’ grin on his face.
“Freddy”, I said…nobody, but nobody, called him Bull to his face. Why? He told one guy he was sensitive that way . . . right before he popped him in the back of the head. “What brings you down to my neighborhood? You know all you gotta do is call, and I’ll be there on the square.” Sam and Freddy were sort of rivals. Not really a territorial thing, but just the same. I had no problem with Freddy, and my boss even let me do a few things for him, if just to keep a ear to the ground.
“Donny!” That’s what they call me…Donny…I hate the name. “Donny, I got some good and bad news for you. The bad news is three of my boys are on their way over to Sams’ right now, and what I’m thinking is that when they get back, you will be out of a job.”
“Oh, man”, I said, “You don’t know what you just done. Your guys ain’t coming back. Why you doing this? Sam’s always been good to you. You got good territory, what do you need with this mess?”
Bull just smiled and said, “Sam knows my guys are coming. Said he’s sittin’ there scared shitless, and I told him I already bought you. So the good news is that I’m going to be your new boss. I could use you. Same setup, different boss…what do you care?”
I cared enough that I hit him in the throat with two stiff fingers. He pretty much went down like a dropped rock. I pulled him into the house and closed the door, watching him try to breathe, which, for him, was not going to happen: I’d crushed his windpipe.
It took him all of five minutes to die. I just left him on the floor, and went to sit down on the couch to wait. Why just wait, you asked? Good question. I shouldn’t have killed him. Sam would have wanted to take care of him, and I ruined his fun. Plus remember when I said Bull’s word was as good as gold? You can bet Sam believed him when Freddy told him I had been bought. And Sam forget about it? Sam don’t forget. With my boss, there ain’t no mistakes allowed.
So now, I sit and wait. You see, Bull’s boys will not get to Sam, but Sam will get to me. I’ve known from working for Sam, that even with my talents, I wouldn’t stand a chance. Oh, I’ll take some of his guys out, but I know who’ll he’ll bring along, and I’ll lose in the end. That’s just the way my world works.
If I run, he’ll find me. I’ve had a good life. Probably be heading down, but you get what you give. Or so I’ve been told.
Pretty soon a car will drive up. The car door will open, and Sam will slither out. I expect that around five minutes after that, I will cease to exist. Sam will try to erase me, so you keep this and remember me. I’ve also been told it’s nice to be remembered.
A short story I wrote some time back after reading about a man who suffered severe depression after losing his wife. So I wrote this because sad endings suck. And no, it wasn’t about that Sarah. It was fleshed out before anybody ever heard of her
Darkness had invaded my life. It pervaded every aspect of my being. All windows shut, all blinds closed. I cared about nothing and no one. I cared even less about myself. Sunlight touching me was like a torch on my skin. Thoughts in my mind turned into black tunnels, where demons and other foul creatures could hide and work their evil on my soul.
It started the day she passed away. I knew she was dying, but I had convinced myself that it would never happen. She was my life, my breath, my very soul. Without her, I was not a man; I was an empty shell. To lose my wife was to lose my life.
When she did pass, I fell to the ground and cursed the very God she loved so deeply. I ranted and raved until my mind was a blank slate, and my soul was empty. The darkness had already started to descend, and I didn’t know it.
Contempt became my sustenance; bitterness my wine. I slid into myself and hid away from everything and everyone. The demons came then, and I thought I had met my masters. My dreams were full of frightening images, my waking hours full of misery. I came to long for them to invade my sleep and fill the emptiness inside me, even if it was all ugly.
I lived with them for many years. I would only go out to buy food and other necessities. The insurance money I got from my wife’s death made me self sufficient. I had no need to work. Fortunately, we never had children. I would have been unable to raise them in my condition.
I always walked to the grocery store, usually in the evening, after the streets were mostly empty, and always passed a pet store on the way. I never really looked at the pets on display in the window, but on one particular evening I did. I noticed a white kitten looking at me with sad, bright blue eyes. I suppose it was seeing the same sad eyes looking back.
I saw the same kitten every time I walked passed the store, and I always stopped to look at it. It always had the same, sad expression on its face. On this one day, though, I smiled when I saw it. The kitten immediately jumped up and came to the front of the cage. The sad look instantly changed to one of curiosity. That intrigued me. How could a kitten respond to a smile? I thought. Was it really my smile it was seeing?
Over the next few days I walked to the pet store just to look at the kitten. I tested my theory by some days just looking at the kitten, and some days smiling. Every time I smiled, the same thing happened: the kitten would come to the front of the cage with the same curious look on its face.
I finally went into the store and asked the proprietor about the kitten. He said he had been unable to sell it because it ignored every person that came in to look at it.
I walked over to the cage and smiled to the kitten. It came to me, rubbed up against the cage, and meowed. I reached my fingers through the wire of the cage and scratched it. The kitten started purring right away.
Visibly taken aback, the proprietor said, “I don’t believe what I am seeing, sir. The kitten has never shown an interest in anyone. How is it that it responds to you?”
“I don’t know, but every time I smile, it seems to know. I believe I will purchase this kitten. Please see I am supplied with everything necessary for its health and comfort,” I told him.
“The kitten is a female, sir. I have not named her, so the honor will be yours. I will gather up everything you will need and supply you with the bill when I am done. Is that satisfactory?”
“Quite, sir,” I replied.
I paid the bill and left with the kitten, plus all the items the proprietor had supplied me with. When I arrived home, I set up a food dish and the litter box. The kitten took off to investigate her new surroundings.
I would notice her checking out different rooms. As she wondered around the house, she would always stop and look at me. If I was smiling, she would come over and rub up against my leg. If I had my usual look on my face, she would ignore me and continue on her quest.
This went on for two days. She constantly moved from room to room, checking every corner, nook and cranny. Her expression told me she was looking for something in particular. What it was, I could only guess.
I had deliberately not named her yet, as I couldn’t think of a name. My mind was a complete blank and I thought nothing of it. Then one day she climbed on the dresser in my bedroom and stared at the picture of my wife. She looked at the picture, then at me, meowing all the time.
I got off the bed and walked over to pick her up. She kept looking at the picture, then back up at me. I told her the picture was of my wife, and she had died six years ago. The kitten meowed at me when I told her my wife’s name was Sarah.
I think for the first time in six years, I chuckled. I said “Sarah” again, and the kitten meowed again.
“Okay, my little friend, Sarah you are.” And the kitten started purring the most contented purr I think I have ever heard or felt.
From that day on, my life started to change. Sarah pretty much owned me. She would paw at the curtains until I drew them back. She would then paw at the windows until I opened them.
I would find her lying on the floor in the sunlight. She would move to follow the sunlight as it made its way across the floor. My Sarah was much the same way: she loved the sunlight.
Gradually, I started opening all the curtains and windows in the house every morning. I learned to love the morning sun. No longer did it scorch me. No longer was I afraid of it. My kitten had opened more than windows in my life; she had opened my very life.
I started going out and revisiting old friends. On early visits, I took Sarah with me. She seemed to stabilize me in my endeavors to reacquaint myself with the people I had known when my wife was alive.
As I moved along in rebuilding my social skills, and meeting new people, Sarah started acting like she wanted me to go out on my own. I thought this strange, and wondered if she was angry with me. But when I would get back home, she would jump up on my lap for some serious scratching. Her purring at those times was like a kiss from my wife. Many times I woke in the morning in the chair with the kitten still asleep on my lap.
I was eventually introduced to a very beautiful woman by Jerry, a man who had become my best friend and confidant. Her name was Victoria. She liked to be called Vicky.
Vicky worked for our city’s only newspaper. She wrote the food columns for the paper and specialized in restaurant reviews. I became quite taken with Vicky, and invited her over to my house for a home cooked meal. I was proud of my culinary skills and wanted to show them off to her.
When Vicky arrived, Sarah ran up to her and started to rub up against her leg. I started to say something, but Vicky picked her up and held her with one arm, while scratching her chin. Sarah looked at me and started purring.
There were many days, and nights, like that. Vicky became a regular feature at the house, and Sarah took to her like, well, a kitten to a beautiful woman.
Whenever Vicky left Sarah would come and sit on my lap, looking up at me and meowing. We knew Vicky belonged in both our lives.
That realization gave me pause for thought: The demons that infested me were of my own making. Sarah had taught me that. She had shown me many things. For a while, I thought Sarah was the reincarnation of my wife. But I came to believe that, while Sarah may not be a reincarnation, it was my wife who had put her in the pet store. The spirit Sarah had could only come from my wife. I knew then my wife was happy, and with the God she so firmly loved.
More and more, my world changed. The demons were gone. The sun shone bright on my life. I asked Vicky to marry me, and she said yes. Sarah was especially frisky that day.
After Vicky and I were married, and had settled into my home, Sarah changed. Not much, but enough that I noticed it. She would spend more time by herself, and less time with Vicky and me.
But on one particular night, I got up from the bed, walked out to the living room, and sat down in my favorite chair. Sarah jumped up on my lap, lay down, looked up at me and meowed. I scratched her in all her favorite spots, and when she started purring, I knew that all was well with her. Sarah was happy and content. She had done what she had set out to do: drive away my demons and teach me there was life after my wife’s death. I looked down at her, and said a final goodbye and thank you to a woman I had loved so dearly.
I picked the kitten up, put her gently down on the chair. She was asleep and purring still. I went back into the bedroom and climbed into bed to be with my new wife. I had gone from a lost soul to the happiest man on earth. All because of a little white kitten that liked my smile.
My mother passed away after a long hospital stay in 2005. I’d moved her to Joplin, MO, after dad died, so I could take care of her. During the five years she lived there, she asked me to write a poem for her. She was a very religious person, so I geared the poem towards her beliefs. After she passed, I felt the poem was incomplete, so I wrote a short story to both complete it, and honor her. The following is what I wrote. A dear friend of mine once told me, we come in as children, and we leave the same way, hence, the picture
The carpenter wandered into Joplin one cold February evening. He knew not his purpose, only that this was the place he should be. He had heard a voice telling him to come here, that his journey was coming to an end.
Can it be true? he thought. Will I now be able to rest, to see the Lord my God? I have searched for that which will allow me to forgive myself. Now, after all these centuries, will I be able to go home to be with Jesus, the Son of God?
Doubts assailed him. He fought them off as best he could, knowing they were the Devil’s work. But they persisted and his hopelessness grew. He put his toolbox down, sat on a corner and watched cars zip by, wondering if any of the occupants of the vehicles felt as he felt. He hoped not. He had had hopes of going home before, but his doubts always kept him from truly believing in his own forgiveness.
He watched as a crow landed on a light pole across the street. Don’t I know you? said the woodworker to the crow. The bird tilted his head as if to say, Yes, we have met many times before.
The crow started hopping along the pole. Back and forth he went, all the while looking at the carpenter, and making cawing sounds. The old man knew not what to make of the bird’s behavior. Maybe this crow has some strange disease, he thought. Still the black bird continued its antics. It would stop every so often and look, head cocked, at the carpenter for a minute, and then start hopping again.
The old man stood, feeling the pain of years past, picked up his tool box, and walked across the street to be nearer to the crow. The bird stopped its antics and watched the carpenter in silence. As the old man got closer to the light pole, the crow started flapping its wings and cawing. When the old man was standing under the street light, the crow flew east, to the next light pole, and repeated his strange dance.
Could it be that this odd bird wishes me to follow him? thought the carpenter. So walk to the next light pole he did, all the while watching the crow dance and caw. When he got there, the bird flew to a barren tree. That must be what he wants, but where is he leading me? the old man thought again. Okay, bird, lead and I will follow, he said to the crow in a voice heard only by the wind.
So the old man followed the crow as the bird made its way from tree to pole to tree. On they went like that for many blocks until the crow flew up and landed on a window ledge on the third floor of Freeman hospital. The bird pecked on the glass and looked at the carpenter.
By now, the old man had become accustomed to the antics of the bird. He knew that he was to go to the room the bird was pecking at.
The carpenter entered the building and walked up the stairs to the third floor. There, he proceeded down the hall to a room where the door was partially ajar. He pushed the door open, walked into the room and found an old woman lying on a bed.
She had an oxygen tube attached to her nose, as well as an intravenous needle in her arm. The woman had her eyes closed and was saying the Hail Mary over and over again in a barely audible voice.
The old man walked to her bedside and took her hand in his. He took out a rosary he carried in his pocket and wrapped it around her wrist. The woman opened her eyes and looked at the man. She smiled, and said, “Is it time to go now?”
“Yes,” said the carpenter. “The Lord is waiting for you.”
“Is it a long journey?” she asked him.
“Yes, very long,” said the carpenter, in reply.
“Will you walk with me, and help guide me?” asked the woman.
The carpenter thought back on the long years he had spent wandering the earth in search of his own forgiveness. Watching the dying woman smile and pray, he knew that this was his time to finally forgive himself. He knew it was time to go home.
The old man looked deep into the woman’s eyes and said, “Maybe it is you who can help guide me.”
“Then let us guide each other, for we are both old, and if the journey is long, we will have each other to lean on,” the woman replied.
“Yes, that is as it should be,” said the carpenter. “Come, then, join me and let us start our journey.”
The son walked into the room, finding his mother lying on the bed, and knew she had passed away.
He looked down on her, with tears in his eyes, as the nurses arrived and pulled the needle from her arm and disconnected the oxygen tube.
“Goodbye, mother,” he said. “May your soul now rest in peace.” He kissed her forehead one last time and left the room to call the rest of the family to tell them of her passing.
“Where did this rosary come from?” asked one of the nurses. “I don’t remember it being around her wrist before.”
The other nurse said, “Maybe her son put it there before he left. Leave it , it must have meant something to both of them.”
Outside the window, the crow gave one last caw and flew away.
I have no idea where this came from. I started to write something on the comedic side, but, being a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of his pants) as a friend calls me, the writing sometimes takes on a life of its own, as this piece did. Anyway, it’s not my usual but I thought I’d put it out there anyway. So if ya all like it, I’m happy; if not, that’s okay too
“Jason Moore, you better be getting ready for school. Isn’t today the day a special guest is supposed to put on a show for your school or something?” yelled mom from the kitchen.
That was the day my life changed . . . again. The first time was when my father passed away. I was in the first grade at Radford elementary school. My dad worked at a steel mill, made fairly good money, and took good care of my mother and I. He never missed a day of work, and was never sick. I came home from school one day and found dad and mom talking in their bedroom. Mom was crying, and dad had a sad look on his face. Two months later, he was gone. Mom said it was cancer.
I had a hard time dealing with his passing. I was angry with him for not being there for mom and I anymore. While other boys were taught how to catch and throw a baseball, there was no one to teach me. Listening to the other kids make fun of me, for not knowing anything about sports, made me erect a shell around myself for protection. Small stature ran in my family, I looked like I belonged in kindergarten, so it did me little good to protest.
There were many times I convinced myself I hated my father; mom would cry, and I would blame him for it. Why wasn’t he there to make her stop crying? Why wasn’t he there to teach me all the things dads teach their kids? I know my anger bothered mom, but I knew no better. Little did I realize that day would change my feelings forever.
“I’ll be down in a minute mom. It’s The Magician that’s doing the show today, and I can’t wait to see him.” I hollered back.
I finished getting dressed as fast as I could, and ran downstairs (try tying your shoes while leaping down the stairs), ready to run to the bus stop and get to school.
“Hold on a minute, you. Eat first. There’s a bowl of cereal with bananas, and some toast. Eat, then bus.”
“Aw, mom”, I said. “I don’t want to be late.”
“You have plenty of time, so eat up. I’ll walk you to the bus stop.”
Quickly, I ate breakfast and mom walked me to the bus.
I was in the fourth grade then. I got all A’s and studied hard so I could make mom proud of me. The trip to school that day was different from the usual; all the kids were talking about The Magician’s show. There was a lot of speculation on whether he really could perform magic. Kids in the third and fourth grades were starting to question Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. There was that part of all of us that wanted it all to be real, but listening to the older kids had us wondering. Anyway, by the time we arrived at school, the consensus seemed to be The Magician was real. I’m sure some of us, including myself, had our fingers crossed, hoping it was true.
The school was divided into two separate buildings: the first through fourth grades were in one, fifth through eighth in the other. The Magician’s first show was at noon in my building; his second, at two o’clock, in the other. Early classes were slow, and difficult to keep ones mind on. But the time did eventually pass, and at noon we were all led by our teachers to the auditorium.
All us childrens’ attention was on the opening in the curtains at the center of the stage, as that was where we expected The Magician to come out. So it was quite a surprise when we heard a rich, full voice say, “Why, your name is Fran, and quite a fine name it is. I think it’s such a fine name that you will one day be president of your own company.”
We all turned to look at Fran, who was sitting in the last row by the rear door. There, standing right next to Fran, was the biggest man I ever saw. He stood well over six and a half feet tall, had a belly round as a basketball, and a snow white beard covering everything but his eyes, nose and mouth. His eyes were bright blue, his nose big and red, and his mouth smiled like he knew he was your best friend, and you were his. He wore a pure white outfit, consisting of a furry pair of pants and a long, shaggy coat that barely touched the ground. His boots were shiny and black.
Fran had her hand over her mouth and was trying, but not succeeding, in keeping from giggling. The Magician winked at her, and walked down the rows towards the stage, stopping to talk to some of the students on the way. He stopped next to Brett, the one kid I really hated, because he always made fun of me not having a dad.
“Brett,” said The Magician. “I’ll bet if you get your grades up, you might be able to play football in Pee-Wee league next year. I think you’d make a great offensive lineman. But only if you get good grades.”
Brett just sat there, stunned. How did The Magician know the only thing Brett ever talked about was someday being an offensive lineman, just like his dad?
The Magician spoke to a few others before climbing the stairs to the stage. As he walked to the center of the stage, his long coat slightly dragging the ground, he turned, and with a huge smile on his face, and said, “Hello, children, I am The Magician, and I’ve come a very long way to entertain you.” The whole auditorium erupted in applause. Even the teachers were smiling.
The Magician held his arms up, smiling all the time, and gestured for the children to stop. He said, “I have many tricks to show you, and I will need some help up here. Is there anyone out there who will help me?”
I think every hand every hand went up, with many children yelling, “Me . . . chose me!”
The Magician laughed a deep, rolling laugh, and said, “Is there a Mary Beckett here? I could use her help.”
One of the few memories I have of my father was his laugh. I remember he taught me how to play Go Fish, the card game. I seemed, at the time, to have a penchant for sevens. Every time it was my turn to ask for a card, I would ask my dad if he had any sevens. If he did, I would take it and put it down, proclaiming, “I won!”
My dad would start laughing then. There was no holding back with his laugh. One chuckle and I would start laughing too. Mom would come in from whatever she was doing and find us both rolling on the floor, holding our sides from laughing so much. After my father passed away, there was little laughter in our house. The Magician’s laugh reminded me of my dad’s.
Mary stood up and replied with a giggle, “Here I am.” And with that scooted by the other children in her row, ran down the aisle, up the stairs and stood in front of the Magician.
“Hello, Mary. I’m sure you will be a great help to me,” said The Magician, as he gently shook her hand.
He led her to one of four chairs set up on the stage, and gestured for her to sit down.
“Now, is there a Jason Moore out there? Jason, stand up so I can see you,” called out The Magician.
I sat there, stunned. I think my mouth hung open to the floor. I slowly stood up, and said, “Here I am, sir.”
“Well, Jason, would you please join me up here? I don’t think I can do the show without you.”
“Me, sir, how can I help you? I don’t know any magic.”
“Oh, Jason, you have much magic in you, and I will need it to do my show. Please help me.”
I walked to the stage, and climbed the stairs, shaking with fear; I was scared of being in front of all the children.
After my father passed away, I became somewhat of a loner. As I said earlier, I was small for my age. I was always the last one picked for any of the sports teams, if I was picked at all. Being a straight A student didn’t go over too well with the rest of the class either. The teachers liked me because I studied so hard, which, of course, led to the “teachers pet” nickname. I hated that, but I knew how important an education was, even at that young age.
The Magician led me to the row of chairs, and had me sit in the one next to Mary.
Next, he called out for Brett Sterns, my number one enemy. “Brett, I need a good future offensive lineman up here. Think you can fill the bill?”
Brett jumped up, looked at his friends, grinned, and made his way to the stage. The Magician had him sit next to me.
“Hey, Jason, you better not mess this up, or I’ll be all over you.” Brett whispered to me as he sat down.
I think the Magician must have over heard Brett, because he looked at me and winked, smiling all the time.
He then called Fran up, saying, “Fran Richards? I need a company President up here to make sure everything is in order. Can you do that for me?”
Fran walked down the aisle and up the stairs like she’d done it a million times in the past. Nothing seemed to bother her. The Magician shook her hand and led her to a seat.
With all of us seated, the Magician started his show. He did some fancy tricks using colored scarves. He crumbled a bunch up in his fist, blew on them, and then showed the kids they were gone. He asked Brett to inspect his hands, to make sure everyone knew they had disappeared.
Brett looked very carefully, but couldn’t find the scarves. The Magician then reached into Brett’s front shirt pocket and started pulling out the scarves. I think Brett was more surprised than anyone. The kids erupted in applause.
I helped with his magic hat. The Magician had me hold the hat, while he said magic words and waved his hands over it. I looked inside the hat while he was doing that, and could swear I saw light and dark swirling together. It made me dizzy.
The Magician reached into the hat and pulled out a white dove. The kids loved it. He let the dove go, and it flew out a window and was gone. The Magician laughed as it flew away, telling the children, “I think he’ll enjoy his freedom, don’t you?”
That brought cheers from everyone.
The Magician’s tricks kept getting more complicated, but not enough to scare us. He had Mary levitating between two of the chairs, with both Brett and myself passing a hula-hoop over her. Brett and I looked at each other wondering how it was possible. We both knew then The Magician had to be real.
After The Magician finished the levitation act, and as Mary walked back to her chair, The Magician walked behind Fran, reached behind her ear, and pulled out a carrot. “Why Fran, I didn’t know you grew carrots in your ear,” he said.
Fran started to giggle again, and said, “I Don’t, sir. I wash behind my ears every night, just like mommy tells me”
“Well, this must be a special carrot, then, don’t you think?” said The Magician. “In fact, from the looks of it, I think it is the magical carrot I’ve been looking many years for. This carrot holds very powerful magic. Anyone eating it must have a kind, strong heart, because this magic is very powerful.
“I think these four brave souls deserve to each eat a piece of the carrot. What does the audience think?”
The auditorium erupted in cheers and applause. I was thinking if Jason’s heart wasn’t good, he might be in trouble. I didn’t understand then, but I was hoping his heart was good.
The Magician carefully broke the carrot into four pieces. Each break resounded with a sharp “snap”, causing more applause.
The Magician then called each of us up separately. He called Mary first, gave her a piece of the carrot, while whispering in her ear. Mary got a big grin on her face and smiled at us, before walking back to her chair.
Then, he called me. I got out of my seat and walked across the stage to him. He handed me my piece of carrot, and whispered into my ear. He also told me I could never reveal what he said, or the magic would be undone. And, like Mary, I looked at the other three, and felt like I had a new family.
Brett was next, and I could see he was scared of what was going on. I know he never saw me smiling at him before, and I think it bothered him. After the Magician handed him the carrot, and whispered to him, I could see a puzzled look creep across his face. But he took the carrot and returned to his seat, all the while looking at me strangely.
Fran ran up to the Magician, and, after he whispered in her ear, walked by me with a look I never saw before. For some reason, it made me blush, but it also made me feel really good.
The Magician then turned to the audience, and said, “The magic carrot is so powerful, I will need for all you children to stand and cheer while the four helpers eat their pieces.”
All the children stood, and started cheering. The four of us looked at each other, and when the Magician said, “Okay, start eating”, we each took our first bite. The carrot tasted like no other carrot I ever ate. It had a sweetness to it that to this day I still can’t describe. It didn’t take us long to finish our pieces.
Brett and Mary looked at each other, started laughing out laud, and raised their hands in the air. Fran looked over at me, and we both did the same thing. I don’t know if it was the carrot doing it to us, or just our excitement, but I never felt so good in my life. All my fears started melting away, and when I glanced at Brett, he looked me square in the eye, and started laughing some more.
The Magician closed the show by simply disappearing from the stage. He had Bret and I hold up a large, ornate blanket. His last words to the school kids were, “Remember, there is always magic, if you know where to look.” With that, he stepped behind the blanket, had Bret wrap it around him, while I held the other end, winked at both of us before Brett finished the wrapping, and, when we opened the blanket, was gone.
Oddly enough, none of us on the stage thought it was strange; it seemed normal for him to leave like that. The rest of the kids sat stunned, as did the teachers. But he showed up for the later show, and the older kids thought he was great, although he just walked off the stage after that show. He didn’t do his carrot trick either.
The rest of the school day went quickly. The teachers knew we were too excited to learn our lessons, so they spent the rest of the day trying to keep us under control. After school, Brett came up to me and apologized for all the bad things he’d said about me. I think I should have been shocked at hearing him say it, but after what the Magician whispered in my ear, I kind of expected it.
Both Fran and Mary joined us, and we started talking about the tricks the Magician did, knowing we really wanted to know what he’d said to each of us. We four knew also we could not tell each other; for some unknown reason, even if we wanted to, we knew we never would.
When to bus came to take us home, Brett asked me if I could come over some time. I said sure, but I would have to get my mom’s okay. Fran asked if she could come too, at which time Mary chimed in and said, “me too?” That was the first time I ever saw Brett blush, and couldn’t help laughing. I thought He was going to hit me, but he started laughing too. From that day on, we did that a lot.
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to tell mom all about the show, and the magic tricks the Magician did. She said she was proud of me for going on stage in front of all my classmates, and especially proud of me for eating the magic carrot. I told her about Brett inviting me over sometime, and she said okay, but I knew she was wondering what was going on, as she knew how Brett picked on me.
Bed time was very difficult for me that night because of all the excitement. I had a hard time going to sleep, but finally dropped off. I dreamed about my father, but this time the dream was different. In it, my father spoke to me for the first time. He said he wished he was there for me, but God had other plans, and God’s will must be done. He said he knew I would be alright without him, but he would still be watching over me all the time. The strange thing about the end of the dream was I could see my father walking away, side by side, with the Magician. Just before they were out of sight, the Magician turned, looked at me and winked.
I told mom about the dream in the morning, and she said it was all the excitement from yesterday causing it. But I knew it was my dad in the dream, and I was no longer mad at him. I still missed him so much it hurt, but I knew he was still with me in spirit.
From that day forward, the four of us were as brothers and sisters. Well, almost. Fran and I got married after college, as did Brett and Mary. Brett played eight yeas for the Green Bay Packer as a, you guessed it, offensive lineman. Fran started her own company, and called herself President . . . just because. The four of us together have six children, nine grandkids, and life after both The Magician and the magic carrot couldn’t be better. Was there real magic involved? We’ll let you decide: we already know our answer.
Sam’s the name, and playing bass is my game. I was looking to hook-up with a couple of like musicians, if any such existed, and form a band that specialized in playing a combination of Irish Dance and Punk Rock. Maybe we throw in a little bit of rap just to piss off the listeners. Not that it would be necessary, mind you; the Irish dancers are so freakin’ protective of their music anyway, I figured every time we started playing, they’d start gnawing on their freakin’ platform shoes, but isn’t that what punk’s all about?
Anyways, I placed an ad in the local paper that read, I’m looking for sick musicians. If you walk around with vomit on your shoes, if you look at people around you as flopping fish out of water, if your parents try to pass you off as a cloning experiment gone bad, and you can play an instrument, call me. 123-555-1234.
I got a couple of returns the first day it ran. The first was from a guy who called himself Schnutz. Why did he call himself that? Damned if I know. He was way too scary to ask. Just the type I was looking for.
Schnutz played the drums. Well, he didn’t really play them; it was more like smash them. This guy was huge, as in tree-big. When he threw his sticks out to the audience, people bled. Needless to say, he was in.
The second was from some bloke named, “Eric something.” This wad actually combed his hair for Christ’s sake. He said he used to play with dominoes or something like that. Frikin loser, if you asked me. Bet he probably ends up playing country . . . gag. After that one, I didn’t get another call, so I dropped the ad because it was costing me beer money. One day was enough for me.
Now Schnutz and I were really hard up to play. We practiced for three whole days . . . well, maybe a couple of hours each day . . . and learned ourselves a couple of old standbys we could jam on most of the night. And I gotta tell ya, we sounded pretty damn good for a bass and drum band, although the neighbors seemed to think differently until Schnutz straightened them out. After that we went around to all the clubs in town looking for a gig. We finally got one at some ignorant little dump on the East-side, which we almost got thrown out of, probably because the first drunk who asked us to play, “Secret Agent Man”, got an ear full . . . of my bass guitar. But Schnutz, living up to his size, beat up the bouncer with his drum sticks, and they let us stay and finish our set: Frikin’ awesome, dude.
After we were done, and leaving the club, promising not to return, some guy, who was really listening to our impeccable rendition of “Carolan’s Concerto,” hailed us from about sixty feet away.
“Hey dudes,” he shouted. “That was an impeccable rendition of ‘Wooly Bully’. You ain’t going to pounce on me for asking if you need a guitar player, are you?”
Wooly Bully? Oh well, this guy had on a pair of jeans that was probably thirty years old, and four sizes too large for him. I wanted them: mine were wearing out.
“Hell no,” I shouted back. “I noticed . . . Schnutz, put the trash can down . . . I noticed you giving us a good listen. Think you can keep up with us? You gotta have an IQ or something. We gotta trade pants first, though.”
“I had a teacher one time who told me I got an IQ, and teachers know stuff like that. I gotta a guitar too,” he said defiantly. I liked that: A defiant guitar player. Whodathunk? “Sure, let’s trade now,” he continued.
Right then, some assholes dressed up as cowboys came out of the club. They all jumped on our new guitar player and proceeded to stomp him senseless. Why? Who knows; they were cowboys. Well, maybe the fact he was pissing on the tire of their truck had something to do with it.
Schnutz casually walked over, bopped the three dudes on the head, picked up “Pant’s,” as I named him, with one hand, carried him back over to where I was standing, and unceremoniously dropped him.
Approximately two minutes later Pant’s jumped up and started swinging wildly, yelling, “I got em . . . I got em!”
Now Pant’s was a pretty skinny dude, and his belated display of chutzpah told me we could count on him in a crunch. Not much, but still . . . we did need a guitar player.
After we got him calmed down (which consisted of Schnutz grabbing his arms and grinning like he’d just won the friggin lotto) we proceeded with the exchange of jeans.
It turned out, though, that the joke was on me. I shoulda had him turn around, as the jeans had no butt. But all good things, yadda, yadda.
Schnutz said the first words I ever heard him say, and understood, after Pant’s and I swapped: “Sam’s Butt,” he said, pointing and laughing like a freakin’ moron. So that’s what we started calling ourselves, Sam’s Butt.
The rest, as they say, is history: We’ve been proudly kicked out of every bar in this town, and are looking for gigs down the road. Some people got no class whatsoever.
(Something I wrote eons ago having a bit of fun )
The old carpenter shuffled slowly to the park bench.
He placed his wooden tool box reverently on the ground.
He had to put his hand on the bench to support himself,
While he lowered his creaking frame down to sit.
I went and saw The Last Airbender today in 3D and enjoyed it. I’ll do a review on it another day, as there was something that happened at the start that disappointed me. Prior to the curtain going up, the Johnny Cash version of Ragged Old Flag played over the sound system, followed by The Pledge Of Allegiance. While the theater was only about one third full, one would expect at least some to stand for it. I counted two of us standing with our hands over our hearts.
He surveyed the area, hoping to find a friendly figure
With whom he could converse, to pass the time,
But it was late November, and the park was empty.
And so it should be, he thought, so it should be.
Maybe it’s the fact I’m a Vietnam vet, or that I just have a love of this country, but I think respect for that pledge, and what it stands for, should be synonymous with what this country stands for. With the hatred spewing from the pundits who call themselves Americans, and the hatred from those saying they’re not, I think the message of the pledge has gotten lost somehow.
A crow, with shiny black feathers, landed on the bench.
It cocked its head, and looked up at the carpenter
With an expression that brought to mind the words,
Have you been here before?
This country was founded with the blood of those who weren’t afraid to spill it for simply the idea of living free. And spill it they did, by the hundreds of thousands in wars we fought right here on our shores, and on the fields of countries where freedom was in jeopardy. Countries like England, France, Italy and many others. Thousands of American soldiers died on those fields, many to never return to these shores again.
Many, many times, the carpenter said to the crow,
Though his voice was silent as the long dead leaves
That were still scattered about the park’s broad expanse.
I have been coming here since ‘fore this place’s time.
But now it seems the hatred has spread to the point getting together and hashing out differences is seen as a weakness, and making political points is the norm. And it’s not just one party doing it; it’s all parties, be they Democrat, Republican, Tea, Independent, et al.
I am the carpenter. I am the one who built the Cross.
I am the one who watched on the mount as the man
They called Jesus was nailed to what I had built.
I am the one who helped Him down, and laid Him to rest.
That I saw only two people stand during the pledge speaks volumes as to the state of politics in this great nation. Its gotten to the point I wonder if this Republic hasn’t degenerated to the point it’s not working any more, and if there is anything we can do to bring civility back into the fold.
My penance for carving out the wood, and making the cross,
Is to wander the world until such time as I find that
I can forgive myself for what I have done.
I have many more years to wander, I fear.
And I ask myself as well, do we need to shed more blood on these shores to reinforce the beliefs our forefathers placed in The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights? And I tell myself, I don’t want to be alive to watch something as horrible as that. I don’t want to think for one second it would be necessary.
As the carpenter turned to gaze at the crow,
The bird gave a squawk, and flew off to seek less noisy things.
The carpenter looked again over the park with eyes
That contained no joy, no light…only the pain of ages.
So I ask you, is this country worth saving? Can we get together and make this country what it should be, without the hatred? Or am I spinning my wheels here over something lost, not to be found again. I know I’m guilty of bashing this political system on more than one occasion, but I’ve never hated what we stand for, nor hated people I disagree with enough to wish them harm in any way. I’ll say unabashedly I love this country, but I hate this hatred spreading like a cancer throughout our political system. It’s time we all stop and look at our neighbor, and regardless of what they believe in, understand they, too, are Americans, and that is something we can all be proud of. So I would ask you if you go the the movies, and they play The Pledge of Allegiance before the movie, stand, and show people you do care, and this country is worth it.
The old man slowly reached for his tool box.
He stood up, wincing at the pain it brought,
And shuffled down the park path towards places unknown.
The crow watched, with a coal black eye, from a barren tree.
Ever have a blank day? You know, you wake up, go about the usual morning routine and . . . blank? Santa could drop down the chimney, the kids could stand there in awe, and you wouldn’t notice a thing. Flat tire? Okay. Burned the roast? Okay. Watch the news? Words . . . words . . . words . . .Feels like the brain took a holiday.
I had my stitches taken out today. It took two hours and I didn’t notice a thing. Got home, laid down for fifteen minutes, and woke up four hours later. Fixed a pb&dill pickle samich, turned on the news and saw . . . nothing. Changed channels to watch MNF and promptly fell asleep again. Felt like a completely wasted day. I’m blaming it on the weather.
So, am I alone in this, or does it happen to other people? Or am I just weird? Answering that last remark is not obligatory.
Okay, I know you all have been waiting around with baited breath (Ya, I know . . . bated . . . but baited sounds way much better. Think of, like, catfish bait, anchovies, chicken livers and such hanging from your mouth. Cool, huh?) for the official version of my recent surgery. The picture on the left, drawn anatomically correct, illustrates the before and after using the state of the art tools associated with the procedure. As you can clearly see the operation went as scheduled and was a complete success.I will be really happy when I can forgo the pain meds.
Now, I know Bearman, upon first perusing the high quality of the drawing, must have thought, “Where did this masterful artist come from?” My answer is, I haven’t a clue, but if you find out, let me know.
I am still limited as to how long I can sit without the leg elevated, but will attempt to increase postings, as I know just how really important to the world at large they are. I will be closing down my science blog, as I think I can post basically the same things here, and like a woman, one is a whole lot easier to handle; just ask Tiger. Speaking of which, how many women has he holed out on?
news: Fox anchor Juliet Huddy thinks by lowering the federal minimum wage, workers will be better off. I’d draw a picture of Huddy’s head, but I don’t do porno.
Steven Colbert is on this weeks sports illustrated dressed in a speed skating outfit. His picture makes me think the winter Olympics are now saved!
In other news, stuffs happening.