Sand Castles

Elsie never knew her father. When Elsie turned five, Terese, her mother, took with a case of wondering fever. She left her daughter with Elsie’s Uncle Peter and Aunt Sophie to live on their farm. Elsie loved the farm.

Elsie loved waking up early in the morning and milking the cows. She loved slopping the hogs, and she loved the sounds they made as they ate. She loved the sleigh rides across the countryside. She loved planting the seeds and watching them grow into food. She loved the coloring of the leaves each autumn. This would have been heaven if her mother had been with her.

Each year on her birthday came a letter from her mother. It wasn’t a letter so much as a journal. Each journal began with “Dear Elsie, my love. I miss you so much.” And each year Elsie became more sure those words were not true. Then the journal shared her mother’s adventures. By her fifteenth birthday, Elsie no longer read the journal when it came.

The journal told of her mother’s sand castle collecting, for Terese called herself a sand castle collector. Not that she made a sand castle and then slipped it into a case. That would have been impossible. She made the sand castle on some faraway beach. Each time she went to the beach, gathered sand, buckets of it, and carried thm to a point the high tide wouldn’t reach. As she built the castle, she filmed it, then, like a Tibetan Buddhist monk, destroyed it.

For Terese, it was the pleasure of the process of building what she called her “sand castles”. At Brighton Beach, it was Buckingham Palace. On the Makena Beach, it was the house of King Kamehameha. On the Rhine, it was Bavarian King Ludwig’s castle. At Sochi, it was the Tsar’s Winter Palace. On the beach at Sanya, she made a copy of the Forbidden City. She’d even gone to the sand dunes of the Sahara. There she built a great pyramid ten feet high. The winds had wiped it out.

But it was her latest that was her masterpiece. At Valras-Plage, she built a miniature Versailles. Pictures of it were in all the French papers. When she destroyed it, there were several thousand people on the beach watching. Television cameras broadcast it all over France. So sad was it for the French the President of France declared a national day of mourning. That was three days before Elsie’s sixteenth birthday.

On her sixteenth birthday, a journal did not arrive for Elsie. The mailman did not bring it. It did not come by FedEx. It did not come by UPS.

Shortly after the evening meal, a car drove up to the farmhouse. A tall, thin woman got out of the taxi. The driver set her two suitcases on the ground. She paid the driver, and he went away.

Aunt Sophie opened the front door to welcome her sister. She called to Elsie, “Your mother has come. Your mother has come.”

For all those years, Elsie had dreamed of this day. Until now. The disappointment weighed down on her, and she was in no mood for her missing mother. She walked upstairs, closed her bedroom door, and went to her bed.

For three days, Elsie lay in bed, only allowing her aunt to enter her bedroom. She developed a fever. The doctor came. He shook his head and told Terese, Peter and Sophie the bad news. “She is dying.”

“Is there nothing we can do?”

“I’m afraid not.”

After the doctor left, Terese looked at her sister and said, “What have I done?”

Peter said, “You’ve done what you’ve done.” There was no malice in his voice, just tears. “Now you must do what you must do.”

“And what is that?” Sophie asked.

“God knows but I sure do not.”

Terese stood up. “I have to go up there and save my child.” Then she marched slowly up the stairs.

She knocked at the bedroom door. “Elsie, this is your mother. I am coming in.”
From inside the room came a weak voice. “Go ‘way.”

Terese opened the door. Her daughter lay in bed, her hair spread out on her pillow, her face pale as death.

Terese turned and left the room and went down to the kitchen. She made her mother’s chicken soup. Like her mother, she put in a little of this and a little of that and a little of the other. But the key ingredient was her love.

Several hours later, she walked a bowl of the soup up to her daughter’s bedroom. She sat down beside her daughter and forced the first spoonful of soup into her mouth. Elsie resisted, then swallowed. Terese gave her a second spoonful, and she sang a lullaby to her daughter. Then a third and she told her daughter of the beaches where she had built sand castles. As she told her stories, Elsie felt a little better.

Several days later, Elsie was almost recovered. Terese and Elsie sat out on the back lawn of the farmhouse.

“Why did you destroy those sand castles?” Elsie asked.

“They weren’t you,” Terese answered.

Elsie gave her a curious look. “They weren’t me?”

“You see,” Terese said, “I had to build those sand castles. I had no choice. Something inside me told me they were not enough. You were the real castle I had given birth to.

And you were so permanent.”

“So why did you not come back?”

“I couldn’t. I didn’t deserve you. When you were born, I knew that. When I left you with your aunt and uncle, I knew that. Building those castles was my way of coming to understand that a mother doesn’t earn a child. A child is a gift. Versailles taught me that.”

Elsie reached over from her chair and squeezed her mother’s hand.

“And you know what? I would sit on the beach, looking out at the sea. As I watched the sun set over the sandcastle, the colors were unbelievable. And the wonder of it all was your face written in those colors. The wonder of it all.”

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Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: Framed

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Molly’s Game” (2017):

This is the opening of “Molly’s Game”. I gotta tell you I saw this and I was in for the count. There was no way I was going to quit this movie. A movie that was written and directed by the great screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

As much as I hated Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs”, that’s how much I love his “Molly’s Game”. With “Molly’s Game”, he’s on top with this one. With this screenplay, he shows what screenwriting is all about when it’s in the hands of a master. This one is so good I think screenwriters will be using it as a model for years to come. I can’t think of where there’s a hole in it and I’ve looked. In the first five minutes, which you saw above, I realized I was in for a great ride. This is one masterpiece of an opening.

Based on a true story, Molly Bloom goes from an Olympic skier to running poker games. With one fall, her ski career is done for. Not sure what to do next she makes for L.A. To get by till she can clear her head, she moves in with an athlete friend and gets a job as a waitress in one of the clubs.

One of her customers sizes her up as an above average possibility as an employee. He hires her as an administrative assistant. One thing leads to another and she’s running her boss’ poker game.

Molly dives in head first into the devil’s playground and just about drowns. Molly is smart and good at details. So soon she is out on her own. She’s running high class  poker games for the rich and the famous, men who have so much cash they can lose a million bucks without batting an eye.

Molly is an innocent in this world, a trusting soul, and so loyal to her customers that causes her to lose her game. She runs off to New York and puts her entrepreneurial skills to work, setting up a new game.

Despite how she is treated, she always keeps her dignity and never betrays people who’d betray her at a toss of a coin. And that’s what happens. She runs an honest game but she’s in a trade where honesty is a weakness.

And for Molly, Sorkin has cast the wonderful Jessica Chastain. As always, her performance is spot-on. The adult Molly is in almost all the scenes. The exceptions are when younger Molly appears. Like Sigourney Weaver in “Alien”, like Emma Thompson in “Wit”, she carries the movie on her back and delivers a powerful performance.

After seeing her in a number of movies, she reminds me of Katherine Hepburn. I would love to see her round her resume off with a comedy or two. For my money, I think she will be around for a long tine and give us many more performances to look forward to.

Supporting Jessica are Kevin Costner as Molly’s father and Idries Elba as her lawyer. Both do terrific performances.

“Molly’s Game” is one roller coaster of a film thanks to Aaron Sorkin. So jump on and ride.

 

Near 500 words: The Birth of a Storyteller

Sikha sat on the roof of her father’s house. From here, she saw the whole neighborhood. She saw the roof of the house of her friend, Aditi. She saw her brother’s house and the houses of people she had known since she was a baby.

It was here she told herself stories. Stories she was beginning to write down. She had even sold one of the stories to a city magazine. It was a story about a Westerner with a hat. When she first wrote it down, it made her laugh. The more she wrote the more she laughed.

She told the story to her family and Aditi. They laughed too. They told her she should submit it to a magazine. At first, she said no. She knew they would hate the story but her family and friends kept insisting.

“It’s your way out,” her father reassured her. Her father was the one she trusted the most.

So she typed it up on her grandfather’s old Remington typewriter, put it in an envelope and sent it out into the world. Then she forgot it.

Two months later, she received an answer from the magazine. They were going to publish it. And there was two rupees’ payment with a letter written in neat English script that said, “Send more please.”

That evening, like usual, she went up to the roof. She began to think she was going to create another story. She thought and she thought and nothing. For the first time, she did not find a new story in her.

The only story that came to her was the story of the man with the hat. Only a new episode with him came to her. Night after night she threw it away like trash. Instead of flying off, the story kept returning. This was not good. Finally, she became curious and gave in to the story.

The man with the hat went to the bank. His name was Marvin. He went to the bank building and inside. The sign said, “No hats allowed. Please take your hat off your head.”

Marvin critiqued the sign. Didn’t the bank management know they had too many words?

The guard walked up to Marvin. “Take your hat off.”

“Say please,” Marvin said.

The bank guard blew his whistle. It was a loud whistle. Three other guards appeared. Now there were four men in uniform standing before him, demanding he remove his hat.

Marvin was a reasonable man. Since it didn’t seem reasonable to him, he did not remove it. It kept his bald head warm.

One of the guards knocked Marvin’s hat off his head. He should not have done that. A bright light shined from Marvin’s head. The guard backed away, holding his eyes.

“Put that thing back on,” a second guard shouted. “Put that thing back on.”

Marvin reached down for his hat. As he did, the light hit another guard’s eyes.

A third guard grabbed the hat. Keeping his eyes closed, he placed the hat on Marvin’s head. The light was gone.

The two guards, who could see, turned Marvin around and sent him back into the street.

“Now what?” Sikha on the roof asked herself. She laughed and said, “Isn’t that always the way of stories.” She looked up at the stars and whispered, “Okay, Marvin, I will return tomorrow night. Then you can finish this story.” She went to the stairs and looked one last time. “Or not.”

Neither snow nor rain nor heat

“But it looks like a storm,” Hank says to his wife.

“You need new clothes,” she says.

“There’s a storm coming.”

“I know how you hate shopping.”

“We can’t go out in that.”

“Let’s see. You need a new blazer, a parka, a sweatshirt, and a sweater. While we’re at it, we might as well get you some pajamas, undershirts, and socks. Some briefs too. And I need shorts. One of my old pair is beginning to look like boxers. I hate that.”

“It’s going to storm.”

“You’re such a wuss. Now get my purse and let’s go.”

Resigned to his fate, Hank gets her purse and follows her out. All the while, he gets in the last word, “But it’s going to storm.”

Fifth Anniversary Story: Go West, Young Women

This is my Fifth Anniversary. I started Uncle Bardie’s Stories &  Such on August 11, 2013. So I give you this story to celebrate.

Two women on a motorcycle flew down the highway, heading west through a sparse landscape. Both in their early thirties. Pill, the short haired brunette, piloted the beast. Cal, short for Calico, rode on the back, her arms wrapped around the pilot. Her long white hair rippled in the breeze.

Pill’s butt hurt. And it wasn’t just her butt. It was the bugs and the heat and the dry skin. But it was worth all the trouble, getting far away from their exes. As far away as they could from the scumbags after the women cleaned out their bank accounts. The two had ridden for three days. At night, they’d pull up at some fleabag of a motel and crash.

Finally, Pill had had enough. She pulled into a small town and rode up to a diner on the main street and parked.

“We got to keep going,” Cal said.

Pill slipped herself out of Cal’s arms and off the bike. “I’m done. Those s.o.b.s can catch us for all I care.”

“But they’ll kill us.”

“Let them try.” Pill pulled out a .45 from the saddlebag and slipped it into a holster at her back. “Let’s get something to eat.”

She went to open the door, then saw the man in his late twenties with a Stetson on his head. “What are you looking at?” she said.

“I’m looking at you.”

“You’re going to go blind.”

“Great way to go if you’re the last thing I see.”

Pill smiled like she was up for the game, then ran her hands up and down her body. “So you’d like some of this.”

“Don’t.” Cal’s voice had a whimper to it.

Pill glared at her companion. “You don’t like it you can get off and walk. I’m ready for a good time.” Then back to Cowboy. “You have a friend?”

“Sure do.”

“Then let me buy you breakfast.”

“’Bout time you offered.” Cowboy pulled the door open to let Pill and Cal go in. “I’m–”

Pill put her palm against his mouth. “Did I ask your name?”

“You didn’t.”

“Then shut up. Let’s eat. I’m hungry.”

“Well, praise Jesus,” Cowboy said. “Nothing I like better than a woman in tight jeans and a mouth on her. We’re going to have some fun.”

The waitress guided them through the crowded room over to a corner booth.

“All I can say,” Pill said, “is you had better not be all talk.”

The waitress gave her a “you’re going to hell” look.

Pill saw it and said, “Take back that look or your tip will be as dry as the Mojave.”

The waitress choked her look down, then said under her breath. “Sorry.”

“That’s better.” Pill slipped into the booth.

Cal took her place beside her companion. Cowboy made himself comfortable on the other side of the table.

“Y’all want coffee?” the gray-haired waitress asked, pulling out her pad.

Pill was the first. “I could use a beer.”

“Three beers,” Cowboy ordered, not waiting for Cal.

Then Pill laid her order out to the waitress. “A big stack of cakes with lots of syrup. And three eggs.” She leaned over toward Cowboy. “I’m going to need the protein.”

Cowboy grinned. “Yes, ma’am.”

Cal followed with her order. “Two eggs, grits and bacon.”

Cowboy said, “The same.”

The waitress headed off to the cook for their order.

Pill gave Cal a look. Then turned her look to Cowboy, “Hope your partner is as good looking as you.” She reached over and ran her hand up and down Cal’s arm. “My friend here has needs, you know.”

Cal nodded. “I do have needs.”

The bell above the diner door rang. Cal almost jumped. Pill didn’t move. Then Cal breathed relief. It wasn’t the exes. It was a tall blond fellow, wearing a straw hat.

He hurried over to the table. “Buck, what are you doing?”

Pill to Cal, “Think he’ll do?”

“Maybe,” Cal said.

Then Pill to Straw hat, “Quit your complaining and join your partner over there. You’ve got a maybe. You just might get a definite if you act nice. Right, Cal?”

“Maybe.”

Straw hat backed away. “Ain’t got time for this foolishness. Buck, are you coming or not?”

Buck smiled. “Like she says. Sit down. It’s going to be one hell of a day.”

“But we got that thing.”

“The thing can wait. We’ve got a couple of Guineveres here that need Lancelots.”

The waitress was back with three beers. She sat them on the table and said to Straw hat, “I suppose you’ll want to order.”

Buck did the ordering instead. “Just bring him what you’re bringing me.”

Resigned, Straw hat dropped to the seat beside Buck.

When the waitress was gone, Buck eyeballed Pill. “Now why don’t you tell me what you two are up to. Packing a .45 and all.”

Pill scrutinized the two for several minutes before making up her mind and answering. About the time she was ready to say her peace, the waitress came back with the food. She laid it out on the table.

Pill took up a fork and stabbed at the eggs. “Maybe I’ll tell, maybe I won’t. First I’m going to fill up on this here grub. Now eat.”

When they finished their food, Pill stood up, plumped down the money for the food along with a tip. “Saddle up, boys, and lead us to a good motel. It‘s time I got my money’s worth.”

On their bike following the men’s red truck, Cal leaned forward and whispered in Pill’s ear. “What are you up to?”

“You’ll see” was all Pill gave her as she pulled up next to the truck.

She jumped off the bike and went to the office for a key. Soon she led the others to a door. Cal brought the bags inside and dropped them on a chair.

“We’re going to take a long hot shower and wash off the dirt. You fellows sit yourself down and wait. Remember all things come to him who waits. You can wait, can’t you?”

The two men nodded.

Pill pulled off her blouse and slide down her jeans, then headed into the bathroom only wearing her panties. Then she stuck her head out the door and said to Cal, “You coming?”

Cal nodded.

Pill continued, “Oh, and don’t you boys touch nothing. If I find out you have, you’re going to be missing a third leg if you know what I mean.” She showed them her .45. “And I always hit what I’m aiming for. Capeech?”

The two men looked at each other wondering what they had gotten themselves into.

Fifteen minutes later a naked Pill walked out of the bathroom. Cal was behind her, drying herself.

“Well, why aren’t you in bed?” Pill asked.

“We–” Buck went to say.

“You what?” She turned to Cal. “Are these guys stupid or what?”

“I think it’s what,” Cal said and laughed.

The two men stripped down to their shorts and crawled under the covers, one to each of the beds.

Pill pointed her gun first at Buck, then at Straw hat. “I’m bored. Let’s see if we can party up this scene. Bucky, get under the covers with your buddy there.”

For the first time, Pill saw determination on Buck’s face. “I’m not moving.”

“Okay,” she said. Aimed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger. Click. “Darn, what did I do with those bullets?” Then she laughed. “Let’s see if the next one is empty.”

“Now, hold on,” Buck said, almost shouting.

“Now hold on yourself.” Pill pointed the weapon at his head again. “It’s time to pay the piper.” She studied his face for a minute or so, then let her hand with the gun fall to her side. Finally, she asked, “What are you two doing in this little town anyway? I know you’re not from here.”

Straw hat let their plans out. “We came to rob the bank. Damn it, Buck. We would have too if you had not gotten yourself up for some fun. You should have saved your fun.”

“Get dressed,” Pill said. “We’ve got some banks to rob.”

Straw hat said, “What?”

“What else would you expect from the Bonnies and Clydes?” Pill said and threw Buck’s clothes over to him.

“But what about? You know,” Straw hat said.

“Are you crazy?” Pill said. “We’re virgins.”

Buck turned red.

Cal laughed, then said, “Not really.”