A Past Beau(ty)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

A Past Beau(ty)

A romance is a short period when two people cannot see too much of each other, followed by a long period when they do.” -unknown

Nancy couldn’t help but stare at the headline of the newspaper.  Patrick Helmswid- The Story Behind the Region’s Most Charming Senator.  She had known Patrick in another time, a more romantic one.  Unknowingly, Nancy found herself remembering the bond that the two had once shared.

It had all started out as most college attractions do.  Nancy was a chemistry major trying to get to class before the bell.  The rain outside had made the tile floor rather slippery.  When Nancy, loaded down with a backpack full of books, took a turn too quick, she had found the floor beneath her sliding away.  She flailed her arms in the air and tried to regain her balance.  Nonetheless, she found herself headed towards the floor.

That was when Patrick came on the scene.  From behind Nancy, the strong quarterback put out his arms, bent his knees ever so slightly, and caught her with soft but sure arms.  Finding herself at a forty-five degree angle, Nancy was struck with surprise at how she had avoided the hard floor.  She twisted and turned to find the handsome rescuer behind her.  She giggled nervously, he beamed with white teeth.  The two were quite taken with each other in that moment.

Nancy put down the newspaper and went to her shoebox full of photographs.  Photos had become a funny topic to Nancy over the years.  There were pictures that scrolled across the wallpaper of her computer monitor every day; a never-ending montage of joy that silently came and went.  Still, there were pictures that she saved for special occasions.  Many photographs that resided in the dingy and ugly cardboard box only came out once every few years.  Their rare appearances and the flipping-sound that they made as she ran her fingers through the glossy paper brought a smile to her face.  The representations of events gone by didn’t call out to be displayed on a regular basis, nor were they as clean and crisp as the shots taken with her high-tech digital camera.  And yet, these prints, lacking focus and out of date, were special to her because of the moments in her life that they recalled.

The picture at the top of her stack constantly brought a smile to her face.  There she was, wearing Patrick’s college jacket, while he stood there looking endlessly rugged in his muddy jersey, shoulder pads, and trademark grin.  She had often teased him about bleaching his teeth, but he repeatedly claimed that the pearly whites she saw were the teeth he had been born with.  Nancy didn’t know whether to believe him or not, and back then she hadn’t cared.  Her boyfriend was attractive, charming, and athletic.  She thought she had hit the jackpot.

Patrick had played the role of significant other quite well.  He had taken care of her when her appendix had almost ruptured on their ski trip in the mountains.  Patrick had carried her in his arms without complaint for the two miles it had taken them to get to a car, and then he had braved a snowstorm to get her to a hospital.  After all that, he stayed by her side, never sleeping while she recovered from surgery.  Whenever Nancy yearned for the Patrick of yesteryear, she always brought up those three days that he took care of her without a thought to himself.  Of course, that had been early in the relationship.

The trouble started around three months into their romance.  Patrick was becoming quite the star on the field.  He was already a prominent law student, now he was becoming an unbeatable player on the field.  He liked it when crowds of people gathered around and proclaimed how spectacular he was.  His professors praised him, the college kids cheered him, and the women were especially appreciative of having Patrick nearby.

Homecoming of their senior year was when Nancy knew she had officially lost Patrick.  She looked at the faded photograph in her lap.  There she stood, modeling her dress in her bedroom, entirely alone.  That was exactly how the night had ended.  In between the times of reflection there had been no longing gazes or kissing.  Nancy had to admit even now that the Patrick she remembered had looked especially dashing in his tuxedo, complete with red cummerbund and bow tie.  Nancy had cut his hair only a week ago.  He was, to all eyes in the dance hall, perfection.

The problem arose when Patrick left his pristine decorum in the back seat and let his hormones do the driving.  Patrick and the head cheerleader shared a wild dance while Nancy went for punch.  The football player showed off his fancy feet with a sorority girl as Nancy visited with her friends.  Tired of waiting for her boyfriend to glance her way, Nancy drove herself home.  Patrick hadn’t noticed.  He had somehow managed to hold two female fans inappropriately close as he pranced about with a girl on each arm.  Nancy never cut a rug with Patrick on the floor that night, but three hours’ worth of other females did.

Their relationship had only deteriorated from there on.  Nancy would wait outside the library for Patrick to meet her.  Late at night he would call with an excuse about an unexpected practice while giggles resonated in the background.  A promise to pick her up from lab and take her to dinner turned into a story about how the gasoline meter in his car had stranded Patrick in the middle of nowhere.  Nancy questioned him on how he had managed to be in the boonies when his roommate had claimed he was studying in the library.  Patrick bristled and yelled.  “Are you calling me a liar?”  Nancy had affirmed that she was.

Patrick had turned uncomfortably silent at the accusation.  Nancy had replied in a single sentence.  “One day, you’re going to realize what happens when you don’t treat people right.”  After a year of dating, those fourteen words effectively ended their relationship.

One large photograph sat at the bottom of the box.  The edges were curved and the picture was forever curved and warped.  The image of the graduating class in their green robes fit in the box about as well as the two thousand students had fit in a “neat group” on the football field.  Naturally, Patrick was in the center of the group, his full physique visible to the camera.  Throngs of beautiful women and robust men surrounded him.  Nancy had been off to the rightmost area towards the back.  Her arms were around two women that she still had coffee with every month.

Looking back, Nancy couldn’t muster up too much bitterness.  She had been swooned and enjoyed it.  For a time, Patrick had made her feel attractive and desired.  No matter what injuries the past had brought up, there had been plenty of good memories.  Patrick had been an excellent kisser.  He had looked great with his shirt off.  And there was that kind and affectionate Patrick that she had known at the beginning of their relationship.  She would still cherish that part of the man, even if his character had lacked later on.  If anything, Nancy would say that they started out having the time of their lives.  She saw no reason to diminish that fun with the harsher incidents that had come later.  With that, Nancy closed the lid on the past and pulled open the newspaper.

There, with a few more wrinkles in his face but still with that engaging smile, was Patrick.  He wore a black suit, white shirt, blue tie, and a look that exuded confidence.  The caption beneath his photograph told another story.  “Senator Patrick Helmswid; seen here moments before he was brought up on charges of embezzlement and campaign fraud.  The Senator dismissed the claims as ‘misunderstandings’, and promised that he and his lawyers would soon clear up matters to all parties’ satisfaction.”

Oh Patrick, Nancy thought to herself as she shook her head.  You really haven’t changed.

“Honey”, she called out to the man putting up decorations on their Christmas tree.  “Come see what that silly ex of mine has done now.”  Nancy had learned from her past a while ago and had found a life she liked better.  Patrick would, as always, change at his own pace.

A Suitable Attraction

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

A Suitable Attraction

We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.” -Fydor Dostoevsky

Pic from Wikipedia

Celeste watched as the water fountain rushed almost to the point of over-flowing.  The brim of the stone-walled bowl tried to contain all the demands that were forced upon it, but the supplier just sending more and more liquid its way.  Celeste decided that the splashes that occasionally hit the ground were not the bowl’s fault.  The poor fountain was simply overworked and overtaxed.  She knew how it felt.

In forty minutes, Celeste was to give a presentation to her supervisors and decision makers.  It was her job to persuade everyone in the room that the funding they were considering allowing her would make their company more profitable.  Celeste was mostly concerned about the extra staff that the money would pay for.  She was doing the work of three people and wanted to share it with at least one other.  The problem was that Celeste wasn’t very successful at singing for her supper.  She had tried to hire support staff for several years and this was the first time that the board had shown signs of willingness.  If she failed this afternoon, Celeste would have to wait at least another year to ask for help.  She would never last that long with the work load that had in mind for her.

That was how the woman in her mid-twenties found herself at the park.  It was only a five minute walk from work and Celeste appreciated the congenial nature of the area.  Women who couldn‘t have been much older than her walked by with their double-wide strollers while talking on their phones.  An old woman walked an excited dachshund on the leash.  Behind the hunched over woman with the purple hair and the excitable pup came a man with bony arms, a loose plaid shirt, and a John Deere cap that was too big for his pale head.  He smiled and waved as his wife called for him to catch up.

Even the squirrels were friendly.  Most of the creatures would scurry away and hide in a garbage can, but one had learned from its years spent in the park.  It stood in front of Celeste, its head cocked to one side.  Celeste stared at the squirrel.  The squirrel looked back patiently.  Celeste blinked.  The squirrel munched on something in its mouth and took a step closer to the woman’s feet.  Celeste held out her empty hands, palms open, showing that she had no treats.  The squirrel squinted.   It seemed annoyed at Celeste’s lack of people food and then ran off to climb the closest tree.

Underneath her dark blue jacket, a small watch lay comfortably on Celeste’s right wrist.  She slid her sleeve back and checked the clock.  She wanted some time to prepare a few sections, but she also desired to be outside enjoying the park for as long as possible.  She brushed a small cluster of crumbs off her suit pants; the residual bits fell and mingled in the tall blades of grass.  She saw with relief that her white blouse was still clean and crisp and her straight blonde hair was free of leaves and tangles.  Celeste was a picturesque executive, properly poised and attired to take charge of the meeting room.

Of course, the situation wasn’t meant to last.

Celeste saw the unexpected variable in her lunch break as it barreled towards her.  She only had time to cry out, “Watch it!“  After that, Celeste was knocked backwards by a bike messenger.  She felt herself being lifted into the air.  A second or two later, she came crashing back down to the ground.  If Celeste had been in control of the situation, she probably would have liked to land on the soft patch of grass that was only inches away.  Instead, she collided on the concrete at the base of the fountain.  She slid along her bottom and felt the concrete and rocks scratch up her posterior.

“I’m so sorry!”  The bike was hastily tossed aside and the operator leapt to his feet.  “I didn’t see you, and there was this kid running in front of me so I had to veer so I wouldn’t… oh man.  I’m so sorry.”

“Ow”, Celeste replied.  She struggled to her feet.  Her hands had been scrapped by the impact, but most of the injury was to her bottom.  “Ow, ow, ow”, she repeated as her injured muscles protested and complained with each movement.  Even with the biker’s hand helping her up, she still felt the pain shoot along her body.

“Are you okay?”

Celeste raised herself to her full height.  Her jacket had scratched cuffs so she took it off.  The blouse had held up remarkably well.  Okay, Celeste thought to herself.  It isn’t ideal, but the top works without the jacket.  She adjusted her white gold chain necklace and freed the lingering strands from their awkward perch in front of her nose.  I can fix this, Celeste reasoned.  The sound of children laughing around her woke Celeste from her confidence boosting.  Now the small ones were pointing as they giggled.  Worse, they were pointing at her.

“Oh, man”, the biker replied.  “Uh, your pants… well, they didn’t make it.”

Eyes widening, Celeste reached for her backside.  Where the dark fabric had once covered, there was now only undergarment.  Horrified, Celeste reached lower until she discovered that, much like the pajamas in Norman Rockwell paintings, the seat of her pants was now a flap that exposed that precious area below the waist.  Even the loose material was torn into strips.  Celeste threw her jacket around her waist and tied the sleeves in front of her midsection.

“That’s great.  Freakin’ great.  Son of a dadgum, mother-lovin’, horse poop pile of squat.  Crud.”

“I really am sorry”, the biker apologized yet again.

“You!”  Celeste turned upon the man intent on having a focal point for her anger.  “You did this!  You and your bike with no brakes and your no-steering!  What the sam hill!”

“I’m so sorry!  I didn’t do it on purpose, I swear!”  The man took off his helmet and revealed a pained expression.  The embarrassment and shame on his face was as clear as the skin on his shaved head.  “What can I do?”

“Do?!  Do?  There’s nothing to do.  I have to give a presentation in…”  Celeste paused to look at her watch.  The result horrified her.  “Twenty minutes!”  The torment of it all was wearing on Celeste.  “There are no clothing stores in a park!  I have people to impress!  What am I supposed to do?”

“Uh, I know where you could get some new pants.  Or maybe a dress.  I guess it would depend on you.”

Celeste’s brown eyes which had previously been fully visible in excitement and frustration now slammed into thin slits of determination.  “Don’t you dare mess with me.”

“I would never…  Look, I just live in that apartment right over there.”

The woman followed the man’s finger and saw a small three-story brick building near the border of the park.  It was nothing fancy, but it added a quiet charm to the open area.

“I’m so happy for you”, Celeste replied.  “Congratulations on living nearby.  How does that make it better?  You have a mall in your apartment?”

“No, a closet.”

Strange and worrying notions started to swirl around Celeste’s head.  She began to back away slowly from the man she had been focusing her anger on.

“No!  It’s not like that”, the man laughed.  “I live with my sister.  She’s about your size.”

“So, you don’t just keep a closet full of women’s clothes in your room.”

“No.”

“You aren’t some weird guy that injures people and then lures them back into your abode so that you can lick their hair or wax their fingernails?”

“What?”

“There are people”, Celeste defended.

“Where?  Where are there people like that?”

“I saw a special on it.”

“Like a news broadcast?”  A smile was introducing itself to the man’s otherwise bare face.

“Not exactly”, Celeste responded.

“What exactly?”

“Okay, technically it was a movie.”

“Uh huh.”

“On HBO”, Celeste said quieter.

“Got it.”

“But it said it was based on true events!”

“They all say that”, the man replied with a laugh.

“I guess they do”, Celeste said begrudgingly.  She shrugged.  “All right, so that may have been a little paranoid.  I’m sorry; this whole thing has thrown me off.”

“No, I’m the one who’s apologizing today.  You’re allowed to be cautious.  But the offer still stands.”

Celeste considered her options.  Either way, she would have to get back to work soon.  If she passed up the offer, she would have to go back dressed like…  Celeste didn’t know what she was dressed like, but it wasn’t someone with the authority to hire more staff.  Without more suitable attire, there really was no point in attending the meeting.

“All right.  I’ll head to your place.  But I have mace in my purse!  Any funny business and you’ll be the one looking for help.”

“Understood”, the man said as he jogged towards the building and motioned for her to follow.  “Despite the initial onslaught you incurred, I really do bring tidings of peace and good will.”

“Sure”, Celeste said as she picked up the pace and thanked her shoes for being flats.  “You’re a winning example to the U.N. for how to exude warmth and decorum.”

The biker pulled his keys from his pocket as they ran up to the front door.  Without pausing, he threw his bike to the curb and bolted up the flight of stairs with Celeste matching him step for step.  At the top of the stairs, the man made a quick right and then unlocked the door.  He waved Celeste inside.

“Welcome to our home, sorry for the mess, no time for the tour now”, he yelled as he opened a door.  “This is Jamie’s room.  She’s out of town.  Pick something you like.”

“Your sister’s going to understand all this?”  Celeste slammed the door shut, not waiting for a reply.

“She won’t be home for another week”, the biker called through the door.  “Besides, she owes me two months’ rent.”

Celeste made sure the door locked and then set her eyes on the closet.  The first things that met her eye were swimsuits and exercise gear.  The articles of clothing would certainly make an impression on the older, male members of the board, but not in the way that she would like.  Brushing past bathrobes and sweaters, Celeste started to get frustrated.  She had ten minutes.  All she wanted were dress pants.  Something resembling professionalism would be great, but she wasn’t finding anything close.  Next up came what she could only assume were bridesmaids dresses.

“Doesn’t your sister ever wear work clothes?”  “I mean, what is with her closet”, Celeste yelled to the hallway.

“She’s a swim instructor”, the man replied.  “We don’t really go for fancy too often.”

“Well every once in a while wouldn’t hurt!”  Celeste almost stopped to consider if she could make a wedding party-reject work, but she continued digging.  Finally, at the back of the closet, she found it.

A tan dress hung in the closet.  In contrast to the gaudy and skimpy clothes around it, the dress was a true standout.  Even in a department store, Celeste would have picked this sleeveless dress.  It was work appropriate, yet elegant.  The shoulders were covered and there was a square cut to the neckline.  The folds and lines hugged the waist casually; not in a confining or suggestive way.  The hemline appeared to reside just above the knees and allowed for brisk walking, which Celeste would need on her way back.

“It’s pretty quiet in there”, the biker called in.  “Does that mean you found something?  Or have you taken to sneaking her television out the window to your accomplice?”

“No”, Celeste answered back.  “I’m actually just trying to get this mattress out the window without opening it all the way.”  She tossed her purse aside yanking off her skirt and blouse as she kicked her black shoes aside.  Her eyes locked in on the hanger which she quickly removed.  She pulled the dress over her head and thanked whatever power above that the dress wasn’t strapless.  Somehow, someway, this perfect dress fit Celeste like it was made for her.  She kicked her shoes back on, grabbed her purse, and threw the door open.

The biker who had been leaning on the opposite wall stumbled to stand up.  “Uh… wow.”

“Zipper”, Celeste demanded as she walked towards him.

“What?”

“Zipper!”  Celeste lifted her hair above the base of her neck and pointed to the back of the dress.  “I need you to help me with the zipper.”

“Oh, right”, the biker said as he moved closer.

Celeste stood impatiently waiting for the final stage to be complete.  Nothing happened.  She was about to turn around when she felt the biker’s hand rest clumsily on her right hip.  Celeste swore she heard a gulp of nervousness from behind her.  The other hand slowly raised the zipper up to its topmost resting spot.  The right hand remained on her hip.

Celeste turned, putting her hand on the biker’s.  She stopped for a moment, facing him, and enjoyed the half embrace of his arm.  “Thank you”, she said kindly.  “I’ll bring your sister’s dress back after my work day.  She’ll never even know I borrowed it.”

Running towards the stairs, Celeste heard a voice call after her.  “I really wish you wouldn’t”, the man replied.

“What?”  Celeste stopped at the foot of the stairs and looked up.  “Why not?”

“You… I… you can’t bring that dress back to my sister.”

Celeste looked at her watch impatiently.  Only six minutes remained.  “Of course I have to.  Why wouldn’t I?”

The biker started to hurry down the stairs, his hand rubbing anxiously on his shaven dome.  “I couldn’t take that.  My sister in that dress; she’s pretty enough.  But you?  I… I’ve never…  Look, that dress wouldn’t be right for her.  Not after the way you wear it.”

“So”, Celeste said cautiously, “I look okay?”

“Stunning.”

“Professionally stunning or corner of Third and Boston at two a.m. stunning?”

“Oh, the first one.  I’d sign whatever contract you’re negotiating.”

“I actually don’t deal with…”  Celeste stopped herself.  “Thank you.”  She looked at the stranger for the first time and took him in.  “In all this craziness I don’t think I ever got your name.”

“Bryan”, he replied.

“Well, Bryan.  If you won’t let me give back the dress then maybe we could go to dinner.”

Bryan stood stock still.  “After all I did to you, you want to go to dinner?”

“Why not?  The first part was an accident.  A painful one”, she said as she rubbed her bottom, “but an accident nonetheless.  Ever since then you have been the perfect gentleman.  Going out of your way to help me, apologizing the whole time; it isn’t something most people would do.”  She stepped forward and rubbed her hands on his head.  “And I like bald guys.”

“Seven?”

“Seven”, Celeste said as she pecked him on the cheek.  “I’ll meet you here”, she called out as she burst out the door.

Celeste sprinted across the grass to her office building.  She had four minutes until the meeting officially started.  She thanked her paranoid nature for setting up the meeting room before her lunch break.  The breeze blew her hair about, but Celeste paid it no mind.  She was enjoying herself.  She might not be a great health buff like Bryan’s sister, but she enjoyed a run now and then.

Celeste couldn’t help but grin.  She was going to own that room.  She was going to show how confident she felt and it would come across in her presentation.  The men and women that she answered to would see how well-thought out her plan was and give her the staff she needed.  Her office rose into view as Celeste covered the distance quickly.

At the street outside her work, she made sure to pause for any oncoming cars or bicycles.  Seeing nothing to impede her travel, Celeste darted across.  She was already getting excited for her victory dinner that evening.

Hats Off to the Hardy Adventurer

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Hats Off to the Hardy Adventurer

Travel develops a man’s mind, especially his imagination.” -unknown

Excitement and far off places were only dreams for some pieces of clothing.  For the brown fedora, they were a part of everyday life.  The brown fedora had survived tropical storms as they had whipped and battered it, but never succeeding in removing it entirely from its owner’s head.  The scorching sun had beaten down on the brown fedora’s brim, forcing the explorer to take off the hat for a moment.  However that was only to wave the brown fedora back and forth as a makeshift fan.  The brown fedora was rugged, intrepid, and had lived a life that all the other denizens of the local haberdashery envied.

Pic from Wikipedia

The credit belonged to the owner.  He was an archaeologist and a respected one at that.   Even when teaching his college courses he managed to drag traces of the sand and mud of the world with him.  The girls in their tiny desks would forego their notes so that they wouldn’t have to take their eyes off the man.  His self-mocking tone and passion for adventure held their attention up until that very last minute of the class when the young admirers reluctantly left his magnetic presence.  Any hat that resided on the head of this exciting individual had to maintain an element of mystique at all times.  Fortunately for the brown fedora, it reveled in such demands.

If the brown fedora had been tossed aside whenever trouble arose, it might not have loved the archaeologist as much as it did.  Though somehow, the man always seemed to keep the brown fedora nearby.  When an ancient tomb wall was slamming down and poisonous projectiles were flying through the air with deadly intent, the owner still took a few precious moments to grab for the brown fedora and hurriedly replace it atop his hair.  When the man rushed through a raging river and the rain was pouring down on him, he continued to cling to the brown fedora.  The hat dripped and ran dark with endless moisture.  It could not fulfill its purpose of keeping the great explorer dry.  Yet the owner only shook off the excess water and wore it once again.

There had been fires.  A windstorm had thrown debris and sand all around.  Lightning had lit up the creases and wrinkles which had been added to the brown fedora with years of harsh living.  And of course, there was the relentless desert heat that faded and tormented the brown fedora.  In spite of all that, the man’s treasured accessory showed up for each trek across the globe.

The fun times about town had been plentiful too.  When strutting around shirtless for his cherished mate, the scrappy man had doffed his shirt but kept the brown fedora on.  Later, when the man and his mate strolled across the campus, he in his suit and she in her white dress and her own lovely hat; the brown fedora continued to look rugged and stalwart in the afternoon sun.  Walking around the cool halls of academia, the brown fedora knew that the professor would place it on the highest perch and let it take in the sights.

Yet, with all the risks that the pair had weathered, there remained a jealousy that the brown fedora could not escape.  There was another that hogged the spotlight.  The brown fedora felt that its role as a head-coverer was responsible for at least part of the man’s coolness.  The brown fedora thought that it brought enough style and practicality to the globe-trotting that the man wouldn’t need any other accessories.  The owner felt differently.  For while the brown fedora got to ride along every day in any region, he knew that the man depended on another item when things really got tight.  The brown fedora didn’t make any fascinating sound effects, not like that ratty old rope did.  The brown fedora couldn’t escape the truth.  If the seeker of artifacts were to tell of his most valuable tool of the trade, the brown fedora was well aware that the owner valued his bullwhip over everything else.  That included the always loyal brown fedora.

Rambo’s Pain

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Rambo’s Pain

Of all God’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash.  That one is the cat.  If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” –Mark Twain

Rambo hobbled across the floor.  He had suffered a grave injury; one which he would never fully recover from.  Rambo had been scratched, scraped, and attacked before.  This time was different.  He could feel the powerful drugs that had been administered by men in face masks starting to wear off.  Rambo was still groggy, but he was conscious enough to comprehend what had been done to him.  Rambo looked at his fresh scar and howled.  It is a cruel fate indeed to have a cat “snipped”.

You want to cut -what- now?

Rambo walked through his home with illusions floating about him.  He suddenly felt the need to run up to the kitchen counter, meow, and run back to the bathroom.  He wasn’t exactly sure what mystery force was out to get him, but he let the delusions dictate his behavior for the moment.  Of course, once he stopped scurrying about, he realized the price of his exertion.  His front paws were just fine, but Rambo’s hind legs had a stinging pain that was exacerbated by his antics.  The result was a slightly rhythmic tone in his mind with every span of ground he passed.  As his paws went “step step, step step”, his nerves answered back “fine-Ow!, fine-Ow!”.

The newly butchered cat tried to figure out what he had done to deserve such a cruel punishment.  Yes, he had lobbed his fair share of hairballs onto the carpet.  It was summer, it was hot, and his fur still needed to be maintained.  What else was a cat to do?  That wasn’t the sort of activity that would be hindered by having “those” organs removed.  Perhaps his owners were jealous of the attention he had lavished upon the next door cat.

He couldn’t help what came naturally to his him.  They were called instincts for a reason.  And Rambo had always had a thing for Siamese felines.  He was just being neighborly.  Humans, they just didn’t understand.

Go. Away.

At last, the sun began to shine in the perfect way.  Rambo knew that there was still one treat left in his life.  There would be no more associating with the finer residents of his species.  No more frolicking.  And running after anything, be it mouse or dust bunny, was simply out of the question until he healed up.  But there was one hope for enjoyment in the cat’s life.

Rambo settled on a warm spot of carpet as the afternoon sun lulled him back to sleep.  Rambo the mighty would not be denied this one final comfort.  After all that had been taken from him, the cat just wanted to lay in the sunbeam and be the master of his small domain.

Tiptoeing in Glass Heels

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Tiptoeing in Glass Heels

Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy, and vain.  To be a warrior one needs to be light and fluid.” -Carlos Castaneda

In almost every aspect, Lynn was the perfect museum employee.  She was interested in the process that an artist took to create a masterpiece.  She had a near encyclopedic memory for an artist’s history and catalog of works.  She even had quite a talent herself for sculpting and painting.  Everyone who came into contact with Lynn walked away knowing that she wanted to share the world of art and her passion for it.  Sadly, due to Lynn’s klutzy nature, people often walked away with stubbed toes or bruises.

Lynn suffered from a shockingly severe case of two left feet.  Whenever she was distracted, pandemonium would inevitably ensue.  She knew she would never be able to join her friends when they went mountain climbing.  She had been banned from a yoga class for gouging two people with her knee caps and knocking other three others in the process.  Knives in her kitchen had to be handled with utmost care.  Even then, Lynn often donned a pair of oven mitts to protect herself from the injuries that anything sharper than a butter knife might inflict.

The older Lynn got, the more she learned that caution was her only salvation.  She knew that taking her time, planning her movements, and generally pausing to establish herself in the environment that she was in were the only ways she could get by without accident.  If she truly focused, she could save on bandages and pain medication.  Such was Lynn’s state of mind when she interviewed at the House of Glass.

As Lynn applied for the position, the realization of what she would be getting herself into never fully registered.   Lynn only knew that she was a woman with a degree in museums and that there were few job openings available in her field.  She sent in her resume and cover letter to any position that was available.  She had been turned down for custodial positions at two different sites because they had felt she was over qualified.  Oddly enough, the only museum that had called her back was the House of Glass.  Lynn knew she could do the job.  She certainly had all the skills that were asked for in the listing.  However, the House of Glass failed to ask during the interview process how Lynn’s physical prowess would hold up under pressure.

It wasn’t until that Lynn pulled up to the visitor parking spot and looked at the main vestibule that she fully understood the predicament she had put herself in.  Her hopes had been raised, the final interview had been scheduled and so Lynn felt that she had no choice but to walk in through the all-glass building and put her best, non-klutzy foot forward.

Maureen, the head of the House of Glass, and Lynn had hit things off smashingly.  They had both graduated from the same program, even mentoring with the same professor.  Maureen liked the ideas that Lynn wanted to implement, and Lynn saw in Maureen someone who would encourage and challenge her at the same time.  However, the challenge of walking around the museum had been rather strong on its own.

Every table seemed to have a tall and delicate centerpiece adorning it.  Lynn cursed her three-inch heels as she tiptoed around each desk.  The reception area was Lynn’s worst nightmare.  All around Lynn were samples of local artists’ works.  Much to Lynn’s dismay, the fragile pink and green flowers nestled next to blue tidal waves were not secured in some elaborate display case.  Instead, they sat on the floor, inviting visitors to get a close-up look.  Lynn felt taunted by the tiny fences that just barely enclosed the labors of love.  They were at the perfect height for her to trip over, but not nearly tall enough to prevent her from falling on the art inside.

Lynn did her best to rise above the challenge.  As she had learned before, she could control herself and her clumsy nature if she could only concentrate.  At the same time, she was incredibly excited about the opportunity in front of her.  It appeared certain that all Lynn had to do was accept the position and it would be hers.  The pieces of art were beautiful, majestically crafted, and they all spoke to her in their own unique voices.  The problem was that for the length of the two-hour interview, the pieces all seemed to scream, “Don’t break me!”

The interview completed where it began.  Once again Lynn found her feet surrounded by tiny masterpieces that all seemed to be asking for her to step on them.  However Maureen took no notice.  She simply smiled, gestured at the House of Glass, and looked Lynn straight in the face.

“What do you say about coming to work for us?”

Lynn clapped her hands and squealed with excitement.  As she rushed towards Maureen, her hand outstretched to her future boss as a show of acceptance; Lynn’s dreaded fear came to life.  Lynn’s left toe caught behind her right ankle and she was thrown off-balance.  Fighting to regain her stance, Lynn wobbled from side to side.  She felt her knees starting to buckle and managed to correct them, but at a price.  Her left foot fell to one side, right where a small, blue snail was displayed.  Even before she heard the glass crack and collapse under her shoe, Lynn knew the work would never be showcased again.

“I’m so sorry”, Lynn said as her hands rushed to her cheeks.  She stared where her foot resided, too horrified to remove her shoe and take in the tragedy that she had caused.  Maureen’s response was, to say the least, not what Lynn had expected.

“Oh, that’s all right”, the woman said.  “It was one of my earlier pieces.  Who’s going to get mad at you, me?  Why don’t we just say the first one is on us?  Just don’t make a habit of it”, Maureen joked.

“Did you happen to like those comments I made about how important it was for these works to be locked up safely and securely?  I could show you the many ways people could damage these fine works of art”, Lynn offered.

“I can see that”, Maureen teased as she went to fetch a folder that contained paperwork for the new hire.  “Let’s have that be priority number one when you start, shall we?”

E-maling to Efficiency and Effectives (Weekly Writing Challenge)

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

(Once again, I have to thank The Daily Post for suggesting that we write about e-mails.  However, I still refuse to post by e-mail.  How do I show gratitude for them Fresh Press-ing me last week?  By rebelling.)

E-mailing to Efficiency and Effectiveness

Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.” –Office Space

Howard parked his car and glumly looked around the parking lot.  A sea of four-door cars, all of them silver or white, looked back at him contentedly.  The cars knew what they were supposed to do until five o’clock.  The paragons of domestic accomplishment were tasked with sitting out in the sun, warming themselves, and generally relaxing in the clear blue sky.  Their drivers, on the other hand, had work waiting for them inside.

Howard sighed, heaved his heavy briefcase towards him, and got out of the car.  He reached in one last time to grab his coffee cup from its resting place in front of the shifter.  He could already feel the warmth of his car’s interior increasing.  Howard shook his head, sipped his coffee, and chirp-ed his car alarm into action.  Howard often wondered what good it did to have an alarm that he couldn’t hear from his desk, but it made his insurance bill lower so he chose to play along.

Walking in the glass door, Howard held his ID badge up to the time clock and listened as the familiar be-deep acknowledged his existence.  The man dressed in a black suit, black tie, black slacks, blue shoes, and a gray shirt, reached inside his briefcase as the kitchen rose into view.  His attire, much like his office space, was dull and lifeless.  Howard took the Sharpie that hung by a piece of yarn from a refrigerator-magnet, wrote his name on his brown paper bag, and then added a frowny-face to voice his displeasure.  Howard was not thrilled about being in the office today, and he would share his frustration and annoyance with anyone who would even think about pilfering his meager lunch.  He closed the fridge door and hoped that his food would be waiting for him later.

Upon leaving the sole communal area, Howard looked out at the office.  As always, he was greeted by the impersonal and blasé sight of dreariness.  Standing at five-feet tall, the cubicle walls were not imposing, not harsh; they were simply there.  They had no aspiring qualities.  They were merely there to be divisive.  They were there to separate the accountants from the advertisers.  The supervisors were walled off from the underlings.  The only thing that the beige and gray walls didn’t section off were conversations.  Every phone call, every moment of casual interaction was overheard and oftentimes commented on.  Howard’s solution to that conundrum was to e-mail everything.

At the far end of the room, Howard could see a large, picturesque window that let the cubicle-clan catch a glimpse of the real world.  The last of the morning clouds had burnt off.  He could feel the veins in his neck tightening already.  He sat down, glared at the calendar on his carpet-covered wall, and turned on his computer.  As the fan whirred to life and the supposedly amusing tones echoed from his tiny speakers, Howard knew he had to break free.  As soon as his wallpaper came up, a happy view of Howard and his family standing on top of a mountain, Howard pulled up his e-mail program.

Quickly clicking on the “new” button, Howard typed the first three letters of his coworker’s name into the subject line, tabbed down, typed in “lunch” as the subject line, and began his first e-mail of the day.  The other seventy-four messages that had wondrously appeared in two and a half days could wait their turn.

“Hey.  Going to go crazy if I don’t escape today.  Lunch?  Outside?”

Howard clicked “send” and took another sip of his coffee.  His cup felt worrisomely light.  Howard tilted the cup back the entire way and the last few drops fell into his mouth.  Great, Howard thought to himself.

Ba-Don, came the noise from Howard’s computer.  He opened the newest letter from Jack.

“Yes.  A thousand times yes.”

Howard clicked “reply”.

“Where do you want to go?”

This time, Howard could hear the Ba-Don from his coworker’s desk.  Scant seconds later, the sound resonated from his computer.

“Outside.  Not here.  You?”

Howard typed, happy to have a cohort in his great escape.  Only four hours remained until they could be free.  “Hawaii.”

“HA!!!”

Howard chuckled at the audible response that resonated over the cubicle walls.  He could imagine Jack’s embarrassment as the others wondered what he was up to.  Soon, Jack’s response hit Howard’s screen.

“Don’t think we have time for Hawaii.  Maybe a park?”

“A park?”  Howard frowned as he typed.  “Parks are crowded with small children.  I’ll have enough of that when I get home.”

“I suppose”, came Jack’s response.

“Besides, I stepped in dog poop the last time we went.  Never again.”

Again, Jack’s hardy laughter burst from his cubicle.  Howard smiled at the comic relief he was getting out of his colleague.

“Stop that!”  Jack’s note was followed by several angry emoticons.  “If you keep making me laugh, we’re both going to get in trouble.”

“It’s not my fault you have no self-control.”

“That’s what she said!”

“Ugggh”, Howard tossed his head back and groaned out loud.  He took his gaze away from the buzzing lights that were recessed in the ceiling and typed out a vexed reply.  “Stop doing that.  The rest of us stopped seven years ago.  It’s done.  Move on.”

“No.  I’m bringing it back.”

“It hasn’t been gone long enough to return!!!”  Howard hoped his extra exclamation points would get his exasperation across.

“YOU’RE WRONg!”

“Nice caps-work, tool.”

“SHUT UP.”

“See”, Howard typed gleefully.  “I’m instructing you already.  What a productive morning we’re having.”

“That’s it.  Stand up”, demanded the newest e-mail.

“What?”

“Stand.  UP.”

Howard could hear an office chair creak and the casters roll as movement sounded from the other side of the wall in front of him.  He stood up himself and looked his cubicle mate in the eye.

“Good morning”, the man across from Howard said.

“Good morning, Jack”, Howard replied.

“Nice to see you”, Jack said as he extended his right hand.

Howard took the man and shook it.  The awkward barrier was still separated the two, but they greeted each other across the obstacle like two pros after a tennis competition.

“You too”, Howard replied.

“Shall we head to the waterfront for lunch?”

“That sounds dandy”, Howard answered.

“Swell”, Jack said.  “See you then.”

“Looking forward to it.”

With that, the two men sat back down.

Ba-Don.  Howard grinned at the newest arrival to his in-box.  He opened Jack’s note and read, “E-mail’s for ineffectual morons.  We’re still humans, darnit!”

“What, you’d rather have a real conversation than drag this out for ten minutes?  Where’s the technological advancement in that?  Luddite.”

“I hate you.  See you at noon.”

Howard looked at the clock.  Eight seventeen.  Howard headed to the kitchen to make himself a second cup of coffee.  Twelve o’clock was going to be a long wait.

A Late Arrival for Christmas Future

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Late Arrival for Christmas Future

…I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?” –Charles Dickens

Jill was a nervous woman, she always had been.  She feared that her jitters were burdens that she would carry for the rest of her life.  While most women in their mid-twenties couldn’t wait to move out of their childhood homes, Jill had found her own residence only because of her parents’ insistence.

As she got ready for bed, she asked herself once again why she had rented a house.  She had searched for a small apartment surrounded by neighbors, but hadn’t found one.  Often, the timid woman pondered the possibility of finding a roommate.  However she worried that they would turn out to be thieves or perverts.  A girl couldn’t be too safe these days.

Walking down the stairs from her bedroom, Jill checked the front door and the windows.  They were all locked, which is how Jill preferred them.  The only time when the door was ever unlatched was when Jill entered or left.  Every other second was one where a stranger could enter and therefore the door had to be secured.  Jill didn’t know how wide the windows would open.  She didn’t want to know.  The house had air conditioning and the windows had bolts.  That was all she needed.

A dog would have been a very welcome companion.  Jill would have adopted a large one, complete with a loud bark and sharp teeth.  However Jill’s allergies simply couldn’t survive any pets.  An electric alarm system wouldn’t do her any good.  If the thieves broke into the house, they would still have time to attack her before the police came.  That didn’t stop her from placing a sticker warning of her non-existent surveillance system in all the front windows.

One light stayed on at the foot of the stairs.  Jill looked at the glowing orb and took comfort in it.  Logically, she argued that having the light on meant that passersby would assume there were people awake and moving in the house.  But on a deeper level, Jill liked knowing that she could control something.  Every time she placed her fingers on the light switch, she felt as if she was in charge of it.  She couldn’t regulate tornados, lightning storms, or drought, but she could decide whether this glassy sphere was allowed to live or not.

Stepping into her bedroom and quickly locking the door behind her, Jill took in the familiar surroundings.  She knew in her head that there were no monsters in her closet, but she had to check just in case.  The same was true of the area under her bed.  A cursory glance at the windows revealed that they, just like all the clear panes in the house, we secured.  She took off her sweatshirt, pulled her hair into a short ponytail, and tucked herself under the covers.  Her black tank top hugged her securely while her green plaid flannel pants gave her a sort, warm feeling.  She pulled her covers close and settled in for her nightly routine.

Even with her Princess Jasmine nightlight on top of her dresser, Jill was consumed with “what if” thoughts and worries.  While her imagination and constant dread made her an excellent safety and accident assessor at work, those same traits made it an ordeal for her to sleep each night.  She lived in the Midwest where nature wasn’t afraid to scorch the earth or cover it in feet of snow.  Her house was further from ambulances and caring neighbors than she liked.  In addition there were the everyday concerns of carbon monoxide poisoning, slipping in the shower, or lead in her water pipes.  Jill did her best to prepare for every eventuality.  At the end of the day, she couldn’t calm herself down until sleep exhausted her.

Just as the toll of her over-active brain started to send her off to sleep, she felt a cold chill fill her room.  Jill’s eyes slammed open.  An intense breeze filled the room.  The wind, Jill tried to believe.  It’s only the wind.  There was a problem with that theory and she knew it.  If the wind was blowing, why were her chimes silent?

With a gust, the light bulb that had rested atop a plastic magic carpet blew out just like a candle.  Jill’s room was plunged into darkness.  The hairs on the back of her neck were rigid and upright.  Her arm lunged out from under her blankets.  With a quickness that only terror can invoke, she grabbed for the industrial strength flashlight that she kept underneath her bedside table.  As quickly as it had gone, Jill pulled her arm back under the covers and clicked the huge flashlight on.

An orange/pink glow filled the little dome that Jill’s body made under the covers.  She pulled her legs in close to her.  Her knees supported her quivering chin as she held the flashlight at her feet pointing up.  She was getting colder and colder.  It was only September; the leaves had just begun to fall.  Yet Jill’s teeth fought to chatter like it was a record-low December.  Also, though she couldn’t explain it, Jill could swear something in the room was moving.

Jill knew it wasn’t possible.  For one thing, other than her sharp breathing that she tried to stifle, the room was silent.  The doors and windows had been locked, she had checked.  Jill did her best to sooth her excited nerves.  I could have sworn…

There it was again.  Jill was sure of it this time.  Some black shape had moved just past her right knee.  It had been tall, wispy figure.  It wasn’t walking around; its movements above her were too quick.  Could it be…floating?  Jill’s eyes were now wide with terror.  She felt the figure right in front of her.  She knew, even with several blankets between them, that a bony hand was reaching towards her.

Jill sent a shrill scream through the room.  She slammed her eyes shut and shrieked as loudly as she could.  Pure panic pierced the dark area and the scream sent the figure reeling back in surprise.  Her breath was running out, so Jill was forced to pause and inhale quickly.  Then she started with another powerful scream.

“Wait.  Wait one minute”, a voice in the room replied.  The tone was curious, to say the least.  It had a sense of wisdom, of long-gestating intelligence and experience that reverberated around every syllable.  Unlike most old voices, there was no rasp or shortness.  The sound came out as ageless and confident.

Jill was about to scream as she realized that the ebony stalks of fingers were pulling the blankets away from her.  The coverings between the woman and the voice were removed.  Jill wanted to screech at the sight in front of her, but she couldn’t.  She was too shocked.

In front of Jill was a phantasm.  A black robe floated in mid-air.  She would have guessed that this wraith was eight-feet tall, but it didn’t have a solid shape.  As the tattered fabric billowed and wavered about in the uncanny breeze, it showed that the creature had no solid form.  There was a skeletal hand that scratched where there should have been a chin.  But the ghost had no face.  The hood of the robe was quite visible from Jill’s flashlight, but there was no face to bathe in light.  Jill could see the night-black fabric and the hand, but nothing else.  She felt herself starting to faint and tried to focus her breathing.

“There must be some sort of mistake”, the figure said.  “Who are you?”

“Ji… Jill”, she managed to say.

“Jill.  But you’re a woman.”

Jill only nodded.  Her eyes refused to blink as they locked onto the figure.

“So… you’re not a man.”

Jill shook her head.

“You’re not Ebenezer Scrooge.”

Jill shook her head again.

The bony hand scratched the side of the hood, and then the back of its “head”.  “All right, I’m officially lost.  This is London, isn’t it?  Come to think of it, I didn’t see any chimney sweeps or carriages outside.  What’s the deal?”

“This… this is London”, Jill managed to reply.  “But it’s London, Ohio.”

“Hold it.  There’s a London, Ohio?”

Jill nodded emphatically.  “Two of them, actually.”

A second bony limb appeared as the ghost threw both arms up in frustration.  The hood pointed up to the ceiling, but still no head was visible.  “How many Londons are there?”

“I don’t know about the rest of the world, but there are about eight in The U.S.”

“Eight?”

“Yeah, twelve if you count the New Londons.”  Jill couldn’t explain it, but an odd calm was starting to take over.  It was almost as if the situation was too bizarre for her to fear.

“Okay, so we’re in The U.S.; the colonies.  But you folks named all these cities after English cities?  You don’t think that’s a little off-putting for the rest of us?”

“It happened before I was born.”

“I suppose that’s fair”, the ghost said as it hovered to the foot of her bed.  It seemed to be taking in its surroundings.  The hood turned to the left quickly, then the right; its robe swooped and flowed with each brief move, trying to keep up.

“You probably want to be in 1843.  Or at least, a time that’s a little bit closer to it.”

“Correct”, the voice said, regaining the confident manner it had first used.  “Are you saying that I am off my mark there as well?”

“By quite a bit”, Jill offered.  “It’s 2012.”

“Oh bother.  Well I’m just entirely out of my destination, aren’t I?”  A sigh came out of the ghost as the temperature in the room warmed noticeably.  “I really must apologize then.  I don’t normally come into a woman’s room.  It is most rude of me.  I promise, were it not my occupation, I would never engage in such activities at all.”

“No, I think I understand”, Jill said.  “You’re The Ghost of Christmas Future.”

“Correct.  And you’re Jill.”  The ghost paused.  “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch your last name.”

“Stooge”, Jill answered.

“Ah ha.  Now we’re starting to get somewhere.”

Jill almost thought she heard the ghost chuckle.

“Well, Jill Stooge, I do apologize for this most unseemly event.  You can understand my confusion, though.  I was assigned to warn a Mr. Scrooge, who I was told lived in a big empty house in London.  Bit of a silly mix-up, I suppose.”

“The details will trip anyone up.”

“Isn’t that the truth?  I’ve always found it to be so”, the ghost replied.

“Still, isn’t one hundred and seventy years a large chunk of time to be off?”

“You have to understand”, the ghost explained.  “Time is a human concept.  Us non-living characters; things are a bit less-defined for us.  When you exist in all moments at once, what’s one year here or there?  They’re all quite accessible.”

“Must be convenient.”

“Oh, most times.  Though, as this unfortunate accident proves, it can be vexing when we try to interact with you folks.”

“We all make mistakes”, Jill offered.

“Indeed we do.  I shall take up no more of your time.  I’m sure you’d like to get back to sleep and I clearly have someplace else I’m supposed to be.  You haven’t seen any other characters around, have you?  A large, jolly fellow with a beard?  A flame-y sort, probably nymph-like?”

“No, just you tonight.”

“Right.  Well, at least the others got their bearings correct.  I do apologize most fervently.”

“Wait!”  Jill reached for the phantom as it made its way out the wall.  The figure had put the top half of its torso up through the ceiling, but now it glided back towards the woman.

“Yes?”

“I wanted… I mean, since you’re here…”

“Did you need something?  I’ve been such a bother to you I’m eager to make amends.”

“I was wondering”, Jill said with reluctance.  “Is there anything I need to know?  Any changes I should make?”

“I’m not really supposed to go into it”, the ghost replied.  “However, I suppose I could make an exception.”

“So, there aren’t any spirits coming to visit me?”

“Of course not.  It’s actually a rather rare event.”

“No one’s going to haunt me or scare me?”

“Oh dear, no.  Who do you think we work for?  We’re just trying to help.”

“I don’t have to worry about anything?  No disasters coming my way?”

“My dear.  I of course can’t guarantee anything.  But nothing’s been brought to our attention.  May I offer a little advice to the living?”

“Please do”, Jill pleaded.

“Live.  That’s it.  Love your neighbor, hug a friend, and make merry.  That’s what I’m going to try and show Scrooge.”

“Fair enough”, Jill said with a smile.

“I’m sorry, but I really have to get going.   I’d like to straighten this whole night out before those other two turn me into an article of ridicule.”

“I understand.  And thank you for your time.”

With that, the specter was gone.  The light bulb on Jill’s lamp turned back on.  Jill smiled and turned off her flashlight.  She reached up and clicked off the lamp.  As the room settled back into quiet darkness, Jill drifted off into peaceful slumber.

Intermission- Feelin’ Fresh

Intermission- Feelin’ Fresh

The applause is a celebration not only of the actors but also of the audience. It constitutes a shared moment of delight.” -John Charles Polanyi

Howdy.

Mamet got me some attention.  Even if I did misspell his name in the URL.  (oops)

I admit, I was going to try and play it cool.  I was going to try to craft a story about… I dunno.  Something.  A bird that builds a nest.  Yeah…  You can see why I didn’t go that route.

No, it just won’t work.  You see, there’s part of me that wants to be all sly and be like, “What’s that?  Yeah.  I diffused a nuclear bomb.  With my bare hands.  It was alright.”

Instead, and being the nerd that I am, I’m a little more excitable.  Except, y’know, I’m at work so I can’t seem –too- excited.  I gotta pretend to be calm.  But when no one’s looking…

What can I say, I like being Fresh Pressed.  I like the fact that some editor-type wrote me a little note.  I shall summarize, not what the note said, but what it said to my little brain:

Dear Philip.

Hi.  You don’t know me.  You never will know me.  We are the ones who control things around here.  So far you’ve played nice.  So far you haven’t cussed out anyone or posted anything obscene.  (But that post about a gal in a red dress was a little racy… watch yourself!)  All in you’re a reasonable guy.  Here ya go.  We’re throwing you a bone.  You can be Fresh Pressed.  But just this once!  Don’t go expecting more.

Today at least, you don’t suck. 

-Editors who can smite your rewards at their whim

Huzzah!  I’m a stubborn little tyke.  I don’t think I have that many exciting opinions to share and I don’t travel.  But I do think that people like story time.  I know that my two nieces both throw stacks of books at me, huddle around my lap, and say, “but… it’s only one more book!”  There’s gotta be something there.  We can’t entirely grow out of the need to hear short stories, right?

That’s what I try to do.  I try to give people a little break.  Maybe work is torqueing you off.  Maybe you’re just bored.  Or maybe you want to believe that there really is that perfect someone out there.  That’s what I’m trying to facilitate.  I think we could all use a little more story time in our lives.

So thanks to you terrific folks who come back for more anecdotes.   Thanks to those fellow bloggers who fill me with envy at their talent, but still encourage me to keep on typing.  And thanks to s1ngal for suggesting I should be Fresh Pressed this week, even if it was for a story she came up with.  😉

Oh, and a last tip o’ the hat to photos in the public domain.  My writing appreciates all those pics that liven up each post and I owe anybody who throws things into the public domain a hug.

If you feel like following, well that’d be keen.  If you’ve found that these stories aren’t for you?  You can unfollow.  I understand.  As for myself, I’m just going to keep on typing.  To paraphrase:

—You can entertain some of the people all of the time, some of the people some of the time, but you can’t entertain all of the people all of the time.—

Thanks again for hanging out.  The door’s always open.

A Student of Politics

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Student of Politics

Politician and idiot are synonymous terms.” -Mark Twain

“In closing, I encourage you to vote for me as Student Body President.  I promise that my efforts will encourage you to do better.  I feel that, with us encouraging each other, we can put the ‘study’ back in ‘study’.  Thank you.”

“Thank you Miss Hepnaut”, Principal Dean said as he took the microphone out of the young girl’s hands.  “That was very… encouraging.”  The blonde gathered her small stack of papers, confidently shook the Principal’s hand, curtseyed to the awkwardly silent crowd, and walked back to the folding chair that had sat unattended for the last twelve minutes.

Principal Dean coughed.  The staff that had worked around him the last five years knew that, on purpose or not, the man coughed whenever he was irritated.  With his retirement only three years away, he was often mistaken for a smoker.

“Now”, he said, and then paused to cough.  “We have our other candidate who will give his speech.  I will remind Mr. Spednu to stick to the format and guidelines that we discussed.”  At this, Principal Dean furrowed his brow, looked over the top of his glasses, and locked onto Jerry Spednu.  He coughed.  “That is understood, is it not Mr. Spednu?”  The dangerous tone in Principal Dean’s voice made it clear that this was not a question, and if it was, there was only one correct answer.

“Why Donald Dean, you wound me!”  Laughter erupted from the assembled students.  They had sat for far too long listening to potential treasurers and secretaries boring them to death while their butts began to fall asleep on the hard wood bleachers.  Half the crowd had pulled out their phones, despite the warnings before that such activities would be dealt with harshly.  The two thousand students looked around at the forty-seven faculty members and knew the odds were in their favor.

The hot new couple of the week hid in the top right corner.  They kissed, groped each other, and generally blocked out all other activity.  The jocks in the middle threw spitballs at the school’s reporters, the only ones sincerely paying attention.  All in all, it was the typical student assembly.  Whether the teenagers liked it or not, they were forced to attend this lesson in politics and civil responsibility.  That didn’t mean they were going to pay attention.   They all focused on their own little worlds.  Then Jerry Spednu started swaggering towards the podium.

“Mind your p’s and q’s, Mr. Spednu”, the Principal said as he reluctantly handed off the totem of power and amplitude.

“Would you get piqued?  What if I quip? Would you commemorate a plaque?”  Two seconds after attaining the microphone and Jerry was already winning over the crowd.  “Did I mind those p’s and q’s well enough, Sir?”

“Proceed cautiously”, Principal Dean replied.  He wanted to head back to his wood chair (folding chairs were for students, not a man like Donald Dean), but the administrator knew that he had to be ready for anything the young upstart might do.

“Good morning Vietnam”, Jerry yelled, with each syllable becoming more enthused than the last.  The crowd cheered back, not understanding what a foreign country had to do with them.  Jerry Spednu was on stage, and that was all they needed to know.

Jerry was smart, but not in the education system-approved sense.  It was clear that he understood most of the material that was presented to him, and he even had a few A’s on his transcript despite all his efforts to keep that from being so.  No, it was the social aspect of Jerry that showed his true genius.  Jerry knew how to work the schoolyard.  He wouldn’t date any of the girls, but he’d happily borrow one for a dance as their boyfriends looked on in irritation.  He’d take a girl to a party, yet it was never certain that she would have a ride home.

Nothing appeared to stick to Jerry.  In a world where a bad haircut made you an outcast for the next two years and where the wrong backpack would get you beaten up, Jerry had escaped unscathed.  His leather jacket that his dad had given him from the sixties was the first indicator that he was in a cool clique all his own.  He had a Zippo lighter that he though went well with the jacket, except for the times when the administration confiscated the incendiary device from him.  Thanks to a maintenance man who liked free DVDs, Jerry also had a copy of all the important school keys, and he would reacquire his lighter whenever he pleased.  Jerry came across as cool, untouchable, and one entertaining person to watch.

“Now, I know what you’re all thinking”, Jerry said as he walked out from behind the two-wheeled podium.  “You have other things you’d rather be doing.  Kate, Buddy; you know what I’m talking about!”

The new couple came up from air just long enough to cheer, then went back to their making out.

“These are my kinds of people!  These are the guys that I’m here to represent.  The teachers are here to make you study.  They’re old, that’s fine.  But us?  We’re not old yet!  And if you want a party candidate, then don’t you think you should have one that knows how to party?”

As expected, the crowd cheered back in appreciation.  The jocks started slamming their feet down like some out-of-synch rhythm section.  Those around them joined in, hoping for some bonus points to be added to their reputation.  The odds of it succeeding were slim, but popularity was worth the risk.

“I think school is about finding yourself, rebelling against those that would try to keep you down.  You gotta be like John McClane!”

A confused silence met Jerry’s cheering.  The thousands of bleacher-warmers wanted to applaud, but they held off, hoping for some explanation.

“Dudes”, Jerry said, quite shocked.  “John  McClane?  He was like the ultimate guy.  James Bond meets Jason Bourne.  And why do those guys all have J-names, anyways?”

The students laughed along, but their hearts clearly weren’t in it.

“You really don’t know what I’m talking about?  Bruce Willis?  Look, the guy takes down terrorists in a skyscraper.  It’s got Severus Snape as a bad guy.  Y’know what; whether you vote for me or not, we’re all having a Die Hard party.  You guys’ll love it.  Yipee kay-yah, Mother F….”  Jerry paused as he saw the Principal come closer.  “…aaather.  Mother Father”, he said with a wink.

Principal Dean stepped forward as the students cheered and stomped some more.  The man in the ill-fitting suit coughed.  Jerry made a, “mea culpa” gesture and cleared his own throat.

“I can see that our esteemed head honcho wants me to wrap up.  Let me simply make sure we’re all on the same page.  This girl wants us to spend more time on community efforts”, Jerry said, pointing to his opponent.  “I think we’re doing just fine.”  Applause met his statement.  “This girl thinks that we should invoke fines or detention if we’re caught littering.  I propose that if you don’t pick up your own garbage; expect a visit from my fist.  We’re stuck in this school; let’s keep it looking better than WestSide High.”  Predictably, jeers and boos were hurled at the mere mention of the school’s bitter rivals.  “And finally, this girl thinks we should put the ‘study’ back in student body.  Well I think you guys should vote for a ‘stud’.  Doesn’t that sound better?”

The Principal made his way to Jerry and stood imposingly close.  “I trust, since you haven’t said anything of any true merit, that you are done?”

“How about a closing remark?”

Principal Dean stood there for a moment.  He thought over the situation.  Part of him knew that he should say no, but there was a part of him that was curious what the lad had in store.  In the end, his curiosity won out and the mediator took a few steps back.

“My fellow student; I have one last comment before I leave you to consider what I have said here today.  We have ourselves a fine school.  We all know we have some fine looking girls.”  Hoots and whistles echoed back to Jerry, but he waved them off.  “You gusy know that we are responsible for doing our part to make this little world of ours better.  We only have four years here until things get serious.  Maybe it is time we considered what we could do to improve ourselves, to really grow as a community before we are all torn apart.  To quote that fantastic show, LOST, ‘If we don’t learn to live together, we’re going to die alone’.”

A somber quiet fell over the gymnasium.  It was a sound unheard since the memorial for departed students fifteen years ago.  No buttons were pressed on phones, no gum was snapped; no one even moved nervously in their seats.  There was only silence.  For a brief, ethereal moment, all minds were focused on the wise words that had just been delivered to them.

Principal Dean couldn’t believe it.  He actually felt himself choking back tears.  Words like these were normally only spoken at graduation, and even then they were rarely communicated so passionately.  There had been a pleading in Jerry’s voice that Principal Dean didn’t know the boy was capable of.  He started to wonder if he hadn’t judged the boy too harshly over the years.

And then Jerry spoke again.

“That’s why we’re partying tomorrow night!!!”  The high ceilings of the building rattled and filled with a deafening applause.  “We’re gonna live fast and we’re gonna live hard!  Just like John McClane!  Details will be given when the suits aren’t around.  There’ll be drinks, swimsuits, and sun.  Who’s with me?”

The next five minutes were unbridled chaos.  Principal Dean grabbed the microphone back and demanded order.  The students wouldn’t stop celebrating.  They threw their books in the air and shook their friends with violent enthusiasm.  It was soon evident that the mindless horde wouldn’t settle down until their leader was removed.  There was no reasoning with this crowd.

The head administrator grabbed the troublemaker by the famous jacket collar and marched him out the door.  The other forty-six staff members slowly got the students back to their classrooms.  Jerry pumped his fists with enthusiastic rebellion all the way to Principal Dean’s office.  The man coughed violently as he locked the door and headed back to his high-backed chair.  High school, he thought to himself with a sigh.  It’s just like real politics.

The Officer’s Key Error

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Officer’s Key Error

Let us all be thankful for fools.   But for them the rest of us could not succeed.” –Mark Twain

Crccc-click.  Crrrccc-click.  The inner-workings of the handcuffs ratcheted noisily into place, becoming tighter and more confining with each bit of pressure that Hal put on them.  His knees ached from his crouched over perch.  Hal stood up, never taking his eyes away from his prey, and looked down with glee.

“Why don’t you just stay right there?  I mean, you’re comfortable, ain’tchya?”

The man sat there.  He didn’t say a word.  Instead, he smiled.

Officer Hal Donaldson couldn’t understand why the man would be feeling victorious.  The arrest had gone entirely Hal’s way.  The Lieutenant had given a description of the bank robber over the walkie talkie.  Donaldson’s partner had started to canvas the area.  He was sure that he had seen someone similar a few yards back.  The plan had been for Hal to call in their actions to the house, but then he saw the man that so perfectly fit the bulletin.

Hal had leapt out of the card, reached for his service weapon, and dashed up the road to catch the man.  That was when Phil Klen poured on the speed.  It had played out just as Hal had hoped it would.  The crook took off in a burst of swiftness.  Hal had been right on his tail.  Klen ran to the end of an alley, jumped for the top of a chain link fence, grabbed maniacally at it, and finally hoisted himself over.  Hal, eager and thrilled to be in an actual chase, had grabbed onto the fence, vaulted himself over, and landed quite smoothly on the other side.

Klen ran down the sidewalk throwing café tables and garbage cans behind him to block the officer’s pursuit.  Hal managed to jump over the tables, skirt around the garbage debris, and he even fought his way through the crowd of pedestrians that had stopped to see what the ruckus was.  Hal felt the thrill feeding his adrenaline, boosting his levels of performance higher and higher.  At the same time, he knew what his duty was to the good citizens of the city.  He was hired to protect and the longer this cat and mouse game went on, the more people he would endanger.

Hal looked around him, hoping that his environment would grant him some advantage to stopping Klen.  The police officer could see nothing that would give him the edge.  But then he noticed Klen up ahead.  The man was clearly slowing down.  Hal knew that this was his moment.  He took a deep breath and drew on his reserves to give him one final sprint.  Hal bee-lined towards Klen, catapulted himself off of a cement planter, and dove at the wanted man.

The tackle had been picture perfect.  Just like in the movies, Hal had connected solidly with Klen’s back.  The force of Hal’s attack had sent the two of them into the ground.  The impact knocked whatever fight that had been left in Klen right out of him.  Hal recited the Miranda Rights.  As he did so, he handcuffed each of Klen’s long arms to a bike rack outside a grocery store.

Now Hal couldn’t take Klen’s smiling anymore.  “You wait right here while I go and get reinforcements”, Hal half-joked.

Again, Phil Klen only smiled confidently.  Hal couldn’t see where this devious attitude was coming from, but it was freaking him out.  He was already warmed up from the initial round of running, so he picked up the pace again and ran back to his squad car.

Four blocks and as many minutes later, Hal saw his partner approaching the car.  Hal threw up his hands in a victory-pose.

“What are you so excited about?”  Officer George Cutlo had been on the force ten years longer than Hal.  His enthusiasm was always harder to earn than Hal’s.

“I caught him!”

“Caught who?”  George only half listened as he pulled up the latest arrest warrant on the squad car’s laptop.

“The guy on the radio; Phil Klen.”

“Yeah right”, George smirked.  “So where is he?”

“He’s in front of the grocery store about four blocks from here.”

“Really?”  George’s tone had quickly shifted to serious.  “Who’s watching him?”

“No one.  Don’t worry; I left him handcuffed to a bike rack.”

“You did what?”  George immediately put his keys to the ignition and fired up the vehicle.

“What’s wrong?”  Hal sat shotgun as George fired up the lights and sirens.

“Did you happen to listen to the broadcast?  Maybe actually read the arrest history of our perp?”

“No.  I was too caught up in arresting him.  What’s the problem?”

“The problem”, George said angrily, “is that this Klen guy is a safecracker.  He’d been an apprentice locksmith.”

“And?”

“He worked for two years learning his trade with a professional escape artist!”  George stabbed his finger towards the laptop, directing Hal’s attention to the details in the warrant that were right in front of him.

The weight of Hal’s mistake started to dawn on him as the car turned the last corner.

“You’ve got a walkie talkie on you.  Why didn’t you call for back up?  Or take that phone out of your pocket and call me?  I could have met you there.”

“I just”, Hal stammered.  “I didn’t think to.”  Hal left out the part where he had enjoyed leaving the world of paperwork behind and the thrill that the foot chase had provided him with.  As they screeched to a halt in front of the grocery store, what had been a moment of pride for Hal was now a hollow victory.

Hal’s handcuffs were right where he left them on the bike rack.  Only now, they were empty.  In that moment, the smile on Klen’s face made a lot more sense to the rookie cop.

Avoiding Neverland

A teacher's reflections on preparing teens for life

Late~Night Ruminations

...for all the ramblings of my cluttered mind....

Short...but not always so sweet 💋

Life is a series of challenges ~Happy endings are not guaranteed

Running Away To Booktopia

Because let's face it, reality sucks most of the time.

guclucy5incz5hipz

Exploring my own creativity (and other people's) in the name of Education, Art and Spirituality. 'SquarEmzSpongeHat'. =~)

The Land of 10,000 Things

Charles Soule - writer.

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Blog

This blog, swallow you whole

bottledworder

easy reading is damn hard writing

s1ngal

S1NGLE living H1GH thinking

Listful Thinking

Listless: Lacking zest or vivacity

Kim Kircher

Strength from the Top of the Mountain

The Byronic Man

We can rebuild him. We have the technology... Drier. Hilariouser. More satirical than before.

The One Year Challenge

A one-year chronical of no flirting, no more dating and absolutely no sex.

Beth Amsbary

Workshop Leader, Storyteller, Grantwriter,