The Father’s Sole Son

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 Father’s Sole Son

It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him.” -Mark Twain

Floyd felt the lateness weighing heavily on him.  He had arrived to open the movie theater at nine a.m. and it was now ten at night.  He wanted to go home.  His bed was waiting for him.  His cat was assuredly hungry.  The only thing standing between Floyd and his bus that would take him away were the last people that stubbornly refused to leave the theater.

If Floyd were being completely honest, he would have to admit that he hadn’t actually asked anyone to leave.  He knew that if it were he, a fellow movie nut, he would also want to stay through the end of the credits.  However Floyd was the one ushering tonight.  Floyd was the employee this time; not the movie buff.  He kept hoping that if he sent mental notes to the few guys left sitting in the theater that they would wondrously leave of their own accord.  As the credits for the soundtrack and locations scrolled by, Floyd realized that his powers of mind control were just not up to snuff.

Someone had to stand at the back of theater to make certain that everyone left and tonight that someone was Floyd.  He stood there, arms at their sides, nodding to each person as they left.  His role was that of a representative.  Floyd was not expected to smile or speak.  If he were to offer an occasional, “thanks for coming” it would be viewed by the common outsider as a nice thing to do.  Really though, Floyd was just a figurehead.  He was a reminder that yes, someone did work here, and that someone was probably going to have to clean up the bucket of popcorn that was kicked over twelve minutes into the movie.

A man briskly walked out of the theater.  He started to rush by, saw Floyd, and scurried over to him. 

“Bathroom?” 

“Up the walkway, to the left”, Floyd replied with a rehearsed simplicity.  He knew that any further directions would have been confusing.  And a man who had walked out of a three-hour movie did not have time to waste on details if he had a general direction to follow.

A small boy wandered out of the theater and found his dad.  His sleepy eyes widened as he looked at Floyd.  Floyd wasn’t sure what he had done to deserve the boy’s attention.  He hadn’t blinked, he hadn’t sneered; as far as Floyd knew he hadn’t even moved.  What reason could the boy have for taking notice of the non-descript usher?

The boy elbowed his father and looked down at Floyd’s feet.  The dad smiled.

“Are those shoes comfortable?”

“I think so”, Floyd replied.  “They do all right.”  Floyd still didn’t know what it was about his new shoes, but everyone felt inclined to comment on them.  Some folks had a pair just like them, only pink.  Some thought they looked space age-y.  Floyd had bought them because they were shoes, they looked comfortable, and they had been on sale.  He didn’t know why this stranger was asking, let alone why his son would care.

“They’re Salomons”, the man continued.  His tone implied more of a statement than a question.

“I think so”, Floyd said.  He honestly didn’t know, nor did he care.  He remembered the brand starting with an “S” and assumed this man knew better.

“My dad made those shoes”, the little boy beamed.

The smile on the boy’s face said it all.  It wasn’t specifically Floyd’s shoes that the boy cared about; it was the connection to his father.  He quickly took his dad’s hand and they scurried up the ramp.  The way the boy looked at his father made it all perfectly clear.

It didn’t matter what the boy’s father did for a living.  The man could have been a judge or he could have been a fisherman.  The head of the family could have sold beers at a stadium or been one of the players on the field.  Floyd knew instantly that the boy simply cared that someone was supporting his father’s work.  The boy had pride in his dad.  The smile that had popped out had said it all in one quick glance.  He was proud of his dad, and he loved him.  If he had to point at strangers’ feet to find an excuse to talk to people about how great his father was, then he would do it.  This was the man that took him to movies and worked hard to pay for their popcorn.  The son, as far as he was concerned, had the coolest dad one could hope for.

Floyd also smiled.  The affection the boy had on his face had infected Floyd.  He took it with him on the bus and carried it all the way to his home.  Even into the next day, Floyd kept thinking about the pair of movie-goers.  Any man that could inspire that much love in his son was a rather fine man indeed.

Distressing Sounds

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.

Distressing Sounds

Nothing funny happened to me on the way to the theater tonight, so good night.” –Jack Benny

Timmy didn’t believe what he was witnessing.  He and his father were part of a crowd.  All different kinds of people had gathered to see how things worked.  If they were honest, they’d admit that they were mostly there to be entertained.  Timmy on the other hand was confused.  How could the supposed heroes of this event just stand there?

It had all started rather dramatically.  A man who had been released from jail the day before had come home to his wife.  The ex-con and the woman got into a fight.  Apparently the man had stashed tens of thousands of dollars before he had been locked up and now the money was gone.  He thought that his wife had stolen it.  She accused him of lying so he could have the money all to himself.  Two gunshots had echoed and now the woman was dead.  Timmy watched as the whole thing took place.

Then the sounds of alarms and police cars entered the picture.  Before he knew it, two men introduced themselves as police officers.  Timmy had never seen these men before, but he knew their voices sound familiar.  He tried to get closer to them, but the guards made sure that he stayed on out of the way while the officers worked.  The little boy watched as the two men interrogated the murderer.

Timmy expected much more from these supposed cops.  From what the eight year-old boy had heard, there should have been a lot more excitement.  Cops were supposed to be rough with their interrogations.  They were supposed to grab thugs by the collar and slap them around a little bit. Maybe they would even hold a gun to the crook’s neck.  None of that was happening, though.  The three of them were just standing there, still as could be, talking.  Timmy would never see the woman again.  He might never learn what the woman did with the money.  He was just supposed to watch from the sidelines and assume that he didn’t need to know.  Timmy had been watching this scene play out for twenty-five minutes and was getting restless.

Finally, Timmy got his answers.  The guy who was supposedly the head officer read off of a piece of paper.  They’d found a deed in one of the desk drawers in the killer’s house.  The officer explained that the woman had taken the money and used it to buy a house in the country where the two of them could live.  She had wanted to save the news as a surprise for her husband.  The crook broke down, was cuffed, and music was played from somewhere.

The announcer walked in, thanked everyone for visiting, and reminded them what kind of toothbrush they should use.  Timmy didn’t get it.  He had been lost when this guy had started talking before; even the cops had stopped talking when this guy had spoken.  Now Timmy was hopelessly befuddled.

“Dad?”

“Yes Timmy?”

“Why were they just standing around the whole time?”

“They weren’t just standing”, his father said as they stood up and walked away from their seats and towards the aisle.  “They were acting.  The microphones in front of them recorded their voices and then it all gets transmitted over the radio so we can hear it at home.”

“So the woman didn’t really die?  They’re not really cops?”

“No Timmy.  I explained all this before the broadcast.  I wanted you to see how shows like The Shadow or Gangbusters worked.  This radio drama is all pretend, like the movies we watch.”

“But with no picture”, Timmy added.

“Exactly”, his father replied.  “They weren’t just standing there, they were doing their job.”

Timmy still didn’t understand.  He decided he’d have to think the whole thing over.  In the meantime, he asked his father for twelve cents to buy a new comic book from the drugstore.

As he looked at the Batmans and Captain Marvels on the stand, Timmy got an idea.  When it was time for bed, he would simply stand there and stay up as late as he wanted.  If his parents got upset, he’d tell them it was his job.  That must be how it works, Timmy reasoned.

The Most Important Duty

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 Most Important Duty

The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage.  A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, “Daddy, I need to ask you something,” he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan.” -Garrison Keillor

Mark took another sip of his coffee as he made his way through his office door.  The man guarding it nodded at him and Mark sleepily returned the gesture.  Mark was usually very friendly with those that worked around him, but he was still struggling with the earliness of the hour and the men in dark suits had never been hired for their conversational skills.  At four in the morning, it was best to leave everyone alone.

Taking another sip from his coffee, Mark wished that it wasn’t so bitter.  He knew that if he wanted, a fresh cup would be brought to him.  He tried not to abuse his power over those that worked for him.  He had a position of authority; that was true.  However he didn’t think that someone else needed to scurry around simply to satisfy a whim of his.  Mark pondered the possibility of sneaking down to the kitchen after making his important phone call, though he doubted he would have time.  When he was younger and was still trying to make a name for himself, Mark could get coffee whenever he wanted.  Now that he had obtained his goals and millions depended on him, Mark didn’t even know how much money was in his wallet.

There was still half an hour until the phone call needed to be made.  Mark wasn’t thrilled about the response the other end would have to his statement.  The problem was that Mark simply couldn’t give the other party what they wanted.  To assist them with their financial difficulty would mean serious cutbacks on his end.  He spent the next half hour looking at the numbers and the same results continued to present themselves.  The answer was as clear as the famous emblem on the carpet; he might lose his job if he made the changes necessary to help out the other party.

Five minutes before the phone call was due to be made, there was a quiet knock at the door.  Mark looked up and saw his youngest daughter standing before him.

“Susan?  What are you doing at the office?  Don’t you have school today?  It’s awfully early.”

Susan looked at her feet and nodded.  “I know, but I have to talk to you.”

“Are you sure, Honey?  I’m kind of busy.”

She looked up with the big brown eyes that more than made up for her lack in height.  “But dad”, the twelve year-old protested.  “It’s important.”

Mark stood up and walked around his desk to one of the nearby couches.  “Okay then, what is it?”  The two sat down close to each other and Susan played with her dad’s thumb while she searched for the correct words.

“Well, I have my big birthday party coming up.  Mom and I were working on the invitations last night.”

“I saw”, her father replied.  “It’s turning into quite the to-do.”

“What’s a to-do?”

“Oh, you know; a shindig.”  Mark’s response was met with confusion.  “A barn raiser.”  More confusion.  “Something that everyone wants to be a part of.”

“Yeah, it is”, Susan replied.  “Mom said that I could invite whoever I wanted and you guys would help out.  But I’m trying to decide if I should invite Paul or not.”

“Who’s Paul?  Is he your boyfriend or something?”

“Daaaaaad”, Susan said as she rolled her eyes.  “I don’t have time for boyfriends.  Not with how things are.”

Mark felt a pang of guilt as he nodded in agreement.  Susan continued.

“It’s just that he’s really interesting.  We talk about weather and frogs and all kinds of cool science stuff.  I think he’s a fun person to have around.  Grace and Julie don’t think so.  They say he has coke-bottle glasses and he’s got a weird nose and he talks about Star Wars too much.”

“Well don’t you like Star Wars too?”

“Uh huh.”

“What am I missing then?”

“I want him to be at my party, but I think my friends will make fun of me if I invite him.  A girl has to have a circle of cool friends, and Paul might scare them off.”

“So you’re trying to figure out if you should listen to your friends or do what you want.”

Susan nodded.  “I want him to be there.  I also want Grace and Julie to like me.”

‘I see your dilemma.  What did your mother say?”

“She said I’d have more fun with Paul than with Julie.”

“I think she might be right”, Mark said.  He turned to the paintings on the wall.  Whenever he tried to think better, he would turn to the old art around him.  Somehow he knew that the problems around him were smaller than he originally thought when he looked at the paintings.  The oil masterfully put to canvas centuries ago reminded him to have perspective.

“What am I supposed to do?”

“I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers”, Mark replied.  “Still, I think it makes sense to surround yourself with people you trust and respect.  Even if it turns out that nobody else likes them.”

“You don’t think that Julie will make fun of me?”

“She might.  You’re the one with the decision to make, not her.  Look kiddo, you’re always going to have to make tough decisions.  The hard part is doing the right thing, offering the kind gesture, and tuning out those that won’t like you.  Nobody ever said doing the right thing was easy, but it’s worth any criticism that comes of it.”

“I guess”, Susan mumbled as she turned her eyes to the carpet.

“Think of it this way.  If Paul isn’t there, who’s going to help you blow out your R2-D2 cake?”

“There’s going to be a droid cake?”  Susan’s eyes were back on Paul and they were alive with excitement.

“Oh, did I say that?”  Mark winked as he feigned embarrassment.  “Here I wasn’t supposed to mention it.”  Susan smiled back with glee.  “Do you think you can stand up to Julie and Grace?”

“Yeah,” Susan replied.  “If they can’t get along with Paul then that’s their problem.  I can’t control their attitudes.  Maybe they’ll come around.”  Susan hopped down off the couch and hugged her father.  “Thanks Dad, you helped.”

Mark watched his daughter run out of the room and couldn’t help but grin.  He looked at the time, realized his phone call was late, and asked his aide to dial the number.  The formal request for assistance stared him back in the face.  A wave of realization hit him as he heard the other party pick up.

“Hello, Mr. President?  It’s Mark Preston.  Sorry to keep you waiting, but I think you’ll like what I have to tell you.  I’ve decided we’ll help your country out with food and cancel your debt with us.”  An excited leader hurriedly offered thanks in a language that Mark didn’t understand.  As the translator relayed the message in English, Mark nodded along.  “I know I had told you we couldn’t help, but there are a few projects around here we can postpone or do without.”  Mark thought of Susan and smiled.  “I may not be popular around here tomorrow, but maybe they’ll come around.  I like to think I’m a rather convincing President.”

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