Short Story Wednesday: A Case of the Pauls

Short Story Prompt: “Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament” by Willa Cather

They were like bookends, the two Pauls. One on each end of my block.

Paul A. was a sixteen-year-old kid who lived with his single mother, Phyllis, in the red brick, two-bedroom house. This Paul never smiled. He wore a sullen look on his face like it was a suit of armor, his clothes rumpled as if no one in the house knew how to care for clothes. Not him. Not his mother. Most of the time he seemed angry. And there was a darkness about him.

Paul S. was at the other end of the block. He lived with both his parents and his three sisters in a two-story white house with a well trimmed lawn and a white picket fence. A curly blonde-haired kid, always smiling, eyes bluer than the sky on a clear blue sky day. A yes-sir or no-sir when I threw a question at him. Like playing catch with the kid, only with questions. Real polite, and likeable as the day is long.

Needless to say, the two Pauls did not run with each other. Paul A. was as much of a loner as anybody I have known in my seventy years. Only a couple of times did I see him with some boys. They had thug written all over them. Paul S. lived in a world where everybody was his friend.

Now the Good Book says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I try to follow that old saw best I can. It was hard though. If Paul A. passed my house, I would give the boy a smile and a good day. All he did was grunt and move on in a hurry like he had someplace to go.

It was a hot summer day. An August day I believe. My air conditioner had gone out early that morning. It would be the next afternoon before a technician could get over to check it out. It was ninety degrees outside, eighty-five inside and getting hotter. I had the windows open for what there was of a breeze and sat in my living room with the overhead fan on.

I went out to the kitchen and stuck my head in the freezer to cool off. How refreshing that was. I was giving a good amount of thought to running myself a cold bath and soaking. Then I thought that maybe I should drive down to the senior citizens’ center. Thing was that they closed at six and I would have to come back to the house and sweat.

Oh, what the hey. I’d gotten way to use to living with all these modern conveniences. Why when I was a kid, we had no air conditioner. And there’d been times when the weather was hotter than this. So what was it with this doing without. “C’mon, man up,” I said to myself. “You’ve gotten too too soft.”

I walked out on the backporch and grabbed the cat’s water bowl. Friskers needed some water so I took it inside and filled it, then back to the porch. I looked out in the back yard. Not a bird in sight. Even the birds were not happy about the heat.

There was a breeze on the back porch. Looked like we’d get some rain soon. Then we’d get more humidity and that would make the heat sticky. For the moment I settled into my lawn chair with a glass of ice tea. Before I knew it, I was dozing off.

I woke to a crash. Coming from inside the house. Had I let Friskers inside? Sneaky cat. He always got past me. I got up and headed inside.

“Friskers, what are you in to now?”

I walked into the living room. Before me stood one of Paul A’s thuggish friends.

“Now hold on here,” I challenged him. “What are you doing in my house?” He was bringing out the former cop in me. How dare this punk come into my house uninvited.

I turned and made for the kitchen. Before I could get to the drawer and my .38, this punk had his arms wrapped around me in a bear hug. He threw me to the ground and said, “Oh, no you don’t.”

Another beefier thug came out from my bedroom, rifling through my wallet. “Just a few bucks in here,” he said to his partner.

“You bastards,” I yelled, crumpled up on the floor. “Get the hell out of my house.”

The bear hugger kicked me in the gut. I went fetal, grasping my stomach.

“Find anything else?” hugger asked.

“Just a couple of rings and some credit cards.”

“Take them and let’s get out of here before this old codger recuperates.” Hugger kicked me again. It felt like he had broken my arm.

Beefy headed for the door. But he didn’t go no further. Before him stood the light Paul. “What the hell are you guys doing?” he demanded. Then he came through the door like he was a bull running down its prey. He hit the hugger in the gut with his fist and went to do it again. Beefy’s fist came down hard on his head.

Both Beefy and Hugger went through the front door, then I heard a noise like a two-by-four splitting. “I told you no. Leave Mr. Williams alone. But you didn’t listen.” It was the dark Paul’s voice.

Light Paul picked himself up. Dark Paul yelled, “Call the cops.”

When the police arrived, dark Paul had scooted away, melting into the night as if he had never been there. Light Paul told them what had happened, took credit for my rescue. As the paramedics loaded me into the ambulance, he said to me, “Paul told me not to tell about him and so I’m not.”

Several days later, the nurse brought me home. As she walked me out of the car and into the house, I saw the two Pauls. watching from across the street, smiling. It seemed that the light Paul was now a little darker and the dark Paul a little lighter.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J. D. Salinger

Illegal Immigration, Just Fix It

Recently the President of the United States addressed a Joint Session of Congress. The White House Press Release stated that the eagerly awaited speech would cover the ongoing crisis with Illegal Immigration. Members of both parties, and Independents too, breathed a sigh of relief. Something would be done.

“Mr. Speaker,” the President began, “Mr. Vice President, Democrats, Republicans, Republicans, Democrats. And lest I forget, Independents. These are troubling times. As that illustrious revolutionary, Thomas Paine, wrote, ‘These are the times that try men’s souls.’” The President held up the Thomas Paine pamphlet to emphasize his point.

Yep, that is what he said. And the President should know. Both parties had been trying his soul since his first term started. On Day One, a Republican challenged him to a duel. The President laughed off the challenge by saying, “I’m no Andrew Jackson.” Of course, his staff kept reminding him that even Andrew Jackson was no Andrew Jackson.

If the Republicans were a barrel of laughs, it was even worse with the Indepenents. They kept passing bills and sending them up to him for his signature. Each bill sang, “Here a piggy, there a piggy, everywhere an oink, oink.” The President’s response on each and everyone of the porkies was, “Ain’t gonna happen.”  Then there were the Democrats. They could not agree on anything. Except how to party hardy.

“Yes, indeedie,” he continued, “these are the times that try men’s souls. And I must say that those words sum up our immigration situation.”

One could hear the drop of a pin. Each and every member of Congress, each and every member of the Supreme Court, each and every member of the President’s Cabinet except for the one who would be the Head Cheese if something happened to all the other cheeses in the hall, they breathed a sigh of relief. They weren’t sure what the President was about to say. At least, he was about to say something. After six years of this and that, tits and tats, whereforths and whatevers, the President was about to do what the American people demanded. He was about to “just fix it.”

“My friends,” he said to the people, “we have tried everything to stop this flow of illegal aliens into our country. We have built a giant wall as high as the Tower of Babel and still they come. We have a large army of border patrol and National Guard. Still they cannot be stopped. We have had the support and extra firepower of the NRA. Still they come and join the twelve million already here illegally.. We even put them on the FBI’s most wanted list. Still the Canadian geese flock across our borders.

“After careful consideration, the White House has decided that there is but one last thing we can do. Stephen King has the answer. We must build a dome over America, the Stephen King Memorial Dome. Then, at last, we will be free from the invasion of all these pesky Canadian geese.”

Short Story Wednesday: The Water and the Sea

Short Story Prompt: “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

Tally did not know his fore from his aft, his port from his starboard. Not that it mattered that he know something of ships. That was for others to know. He was not a sea man, and he wasn’t a sailor.

He came on the cruise to please his wife. Mara thought it would do him good to get away from everybody, including herself. “A good oceangoing voyage might just be the thing,” she said. It would break the melancholies he wore like a suit of clothes. Since the death of his friend, Breaker, they had their way with him. It was his way of coping.

So he chose to return from Breaker’s funeral in London by ship. It had been an uneventful voyage so far. Three days of moping around the decks, then sitting on deck and watching the tides in an easy rise and fall. Rising and falling like Breaker himself.

He had first met Breaker in his freshman year of college. Breaker showed up at every party Tally attended. What would be a boring affair suddenly became a blow-out. When Tally was a sophomore, Breaker was a junior and his roommate. They had become close. Breaker would share all these dreams he had. Until Tally met Breaker, he never had many dreams for his future. He picked the path of least resistance. He was going to be a cpa. “That’s no life,” Breaker would say. Of course, he was right.

So Tally followed Breaker into the Peace Corps. When Tally finished his time with the Corp, Breaker was already a war correspondent for CBS. Tally decided wars were not for him. Instead he went off to Africa and started a safari business. There he met Mara just about the time Breaker married his English wife, Pamela. Next thin g he knew Breaker was off to Israel. He and his wife were in kabutz.

Mara was pregnant, so Tally sold the business and took his wife and new baby back to the states. That was when he got in on the new internet craze and sold his new software company for several million dollars. It seemed that Tally had found that he had a knack for making money. He and Mara had several other children. Every so often Tally would hear a new story of his hero. He was always in some place new doing something Tally would never think about doing. Breaker had become something of a legend in Tally’s family.

Then, at forty, a phone call came from London. It was Pamela. “Breaker’s dead,” she said.

“How?” Tally asked, tears in his eyes.

“Suicide. Can you fly over? He wanted you at the funeral.”

“Sure,” Tally said, and took the next plane over to England. Tally had been surprised at how well Pamela held up at the funeral. Afterward, Pamela gave him a big hug and went back to her apartment for her own private grief.

Tally lay down and took in all that had happened since he first met Breaker. He would not be the man he was if not for Breaker. He would not have found that he could have a life that was not dull and ordinary. He would not have Mara and the kids. He would not have the friends he had, and the adventures he had lived. Now that Breaker was gone, what was he to do. He was forty and suddenly he had no future.

He closed his eyes and slipped off to sleep. Everywhere there was water. No sky or land, just water. He opened his eyes. He felt better than he had in weeks. In fact, he felt wonderful.

He walked over to the edge. The sea before him was like glass. Possibly he might walk on the sea. He gazed out at the sea and sky. The dark blue with light only from the ship. And the quietness. He listened and all he heard was the humming of the ship’s engine. What if he stepped off the deck of the ship and onto the sea? Now that would be a happy thing.

A hand reached from behind him. “Don’t,” a voice said. Tally turned and there was no one there.

“What the hey?” Tally asked.

He went back to his deck chair. Where there was only dark blue sky a few moments ago, now there were stars. He didn’t count but he estimated a million and seven. Why a million and seven? Just because.

Then he saw Mara’s face. Not in the stars, not in his imagination. She looked out at him from where she was. She was crying, her face pleading with him. All through the last couple of weeks he had forgotten her. He had only been thinking about Breaker. But now there she was and what he was thinking really hurt Mara.

Right then and there he discovered he had a future. It was Mara.

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: ‘Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament” by Willa Cather.

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

I can hear some of you saying, “What’s all the shouting about? It’s Monday morning, and I am trying to get some sleep.”

Well, Uncle Bardie has News Big Time. It has been one year. Yes, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days since the insanity began here at Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. And, oh joy, oh joy. Uncle Bardie can’t help but dance. He’s sitting at his desk and his fingers are dancing across the keyboard because he’s so darn happy.

You heard it right. This is the first Birtherversary of Uncle Bardie’s Stories & Such. It has been one year of extra special fun, giving my readers some humor, some stories, some poemers and a a few pickin’ and grinnin’s.

It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience, meeting so many new people. When I began, I thought I would be happy if only ten people followed me. I am amazed that I have over 200 followers. That is a big WOW on my part. And a huge thank you to all of you who continue to put up with my nonsense. I just want you to know how much I love you guys. You have allowed me to take risks and tolerated my foibles. Because of you, I have been urged on to give my best.

THE PAST YEAR

Since that first sign on, I have given you 139 posts. In them, you’ve learned more than you ever wanted to know about cow tipping. You met my lawn, and found out that I ain’t giving it a Facebook page no matter how much it bets. You were surprised that Mylie Cyrus could twerk-bomb terrorists. You found out that superheroes have to do laundry just like the rest of us.

Since inquiring minds want to know, I took on age old questions like: If life is so short, why do we get so many chances to screw up? What do you do with a dead body? Why did God give me one big mouth to stick my two feet in? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What’s a dot to do? Questions like that. I even let you in on everything I know about women. It was hard to contain myself with that one. So much knowledge and so many words.

There’s been romance. There’s been history. There’s been some theology. There’s even been some writing posts: “Five Rules for Lead Characters to Live By”, “The Writer’s Life” and “The Maestro”. There was a Mother’s Day Meditation called “Mother of the World”. Where that one came from I will never know. Sometimes the Muse is good. There was even a post about “The Art Scene”.

Last January, I took on a new writing assignment. Every Wedmesday, I would write a story, using another story as a prompt. What a fun thing to do and what a challenge. It has given me the opportunity to read stories that I had never read, then beat my head against the wall trying to come up with a response. It has been a great conversation starter with some of the great short story writers. I am over halfway finished with the list. And I shall miss it when it concludes at the end of the year.

THE FUTURE

In the coming year, I will be posting more of the same. If you have enjoyed what you have found here, there’s more to come. I hope you enjoy these twice-a-weeks as much as I enjoy writing them.

Next year I will be replacing the Short Story Prompts with something I am excited about. Uncle Bardie will be doing The Bard. I am talking Shakespeare here. I plan on taking on “Hamlet”, and it’s going to be a “Hamlet” you’ve never met before. Like the comedian Gallagher says, “it’s my job to point out the stuff you never thought of. There will be posts like “Hamlet and the Knock-knock Joke” and “Hamlet and a Dark and Stormy Night”.

I LOVE BLOGGING

One thing I want y’all to know is that I love Blogging and I love being a Blogger. Some folks look down on blogging. They say it ain’t real writing. I say they are all wrong. It is not only real writing, sometimes it’s the best writing.

Since I have begun this adventure, I have met so many great bloggers. People who pour their hearts and souls into their posts. They give everything they have to this. And I love what you do.

The great surprise of all this has been the community of bloggers I have found here at Word Press. When I view and read your posts, I feel like I am getting to know a three dimensional you that I would never be able to know on Facebook or Twitter. Unlike Twitter, I know that there is a real person behind the post and I find out what that person really thinks and cares about.  It is like a conversation I might have with the blogger over a cup of coffee.

And, oh my, I do love your comments and I am so thankful for your Likes. You are so encouraging. So here’s to the coming year. And a final note. I love you guys, and thank you.

Big Hugs from Uncle Bardie.

Don’t Cry for Me, Miss Argentina

A pickin’ and a grinnin’ lyric
I’m at the Best Western
And she’s got the house.
She had an affair;
I looked like a louse.
She’s gettin’ it all,
The cat and the mouse.
I was such a fool
So I’m gettin’ real soused.

Chorus:
But don’t cry for me, Miss Argentina.
You could’ve been Miss World.
You went for The Pool Guy,
Now you’re just a regular girl.

She flipped her a dime.
It came up heads.
She went out dancin’.
I was on my meds.
She had her some fun,
Playin’ musical beds.
Left me for a pool guy.
‘Least that’s what she said.

I couldn’t give up,
Not without a fight.
If I didn’t try hard
I wouldn’t feel right.
Followed her around,
Keeping out of sight.
You wouldn’t believe
What I saw that night.

She got in her red coupe
And went for a whirl.
Hit all the hot spots
Dancin’ her twirls.
She’s doin’ nothin’
Bad ‘cept shakin’ her curls
Till I did see her
Kissin’ The Pool Girl.