Near 500 words: The Clothing Store on San Miguel Street

Janet was named after her grand mama. Aida was named after the woman in the opera. They had been friends since high school. When she was forty, Janet’s husband left her for a slut named Helen just like Helen ran off with that slut, Paris. Her husband got the clap and murdered Helen. Janet got a divorce and went to work.

Aida lost her husband to cancer when she was sixty. She needed something to occupy her spirit. She could have taken up with the church. But she was not the praying kind. So she bought a clothing store on San Miguel Street and went equal partners with her friend. “Fifty-fifty,” she said when she made the suggestion to Janet.

Their families warned them. Anywhere else but San Miguel Street. San Miguel Street was a part of the worst part of town.

Janet and Aida had faith. They left the door open. If someone wanted to take their money, they would surrender the cash with a smile. They didn’t have much and it wasn’t worth losing their lives over. Besides they liked the people there.

They opened the shop at eight sharp. Not a minute earlier or a minute later. The neighborhood could set their clocks by it. Day in, day out, the two women sat in the doorway, waiting for someone to drop by. And people did.

One morning Senora Alicia came by. “I need a hat for my son’s wedding. Do you have a hat for me?”

“Of course,” Aida said. She went back into the store and over to the hat stand and pulled down a bonnet all decked out with flowers. “I think this one will do.”

Senora Alicia tried it on. She looked in the mirror. She smiled. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”

“And it fits snug,” Aida said.

“Yes, it does.” Then Senora Alicia laughed.

“You’re going to be the hit of the wedding,” Aida assured her customer.

Senora Alicia’s face went serious. “How much is it?” She was afraid she could not afford it.

“No charge. It’s a wedding present.”

“Oh, I have to give you something.”

“You already have. You came to our shop for a hat.”

Senora Alicia handed Janet the hat. Janet took it and sat it on the counter. She went in the back room and brought out a lovely box and gently sat the hat into the box. Then she tied the box up with a pink ribbon and handed the box to Senora Alicia.

“Would you like a cup of tea and a cookie?” Aida offered.

“I would love a cup of tea and a cookie.” Of course, she wanted a cup of tea and a cookie. The cookies were notorious in the neighborhood. Some of the kids thought they were magic cookies because people were always happy after they ate one.

The women sat in the chairs in front of the store. For several hours, they laughed and cried and had a good time. Aida told her stories. Senora Alicia shared her worries about her son. Janet listened. Aida’s stories and the love Senora Alicia had for her son filled her up to the brim with happiness.

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Snoops

A shaggy cat story.

Helene, the mother and daughter Helene had a cat. His name was Snoops. Snoops was black with large black eyes. And he wasn’t just black, but the kind of black that scared the heck out of anyone who saw Snoops.

Snoops could be violent. Attack anyone, other than Helene and Helene. The mother and the daughter were not sure why they brought the thing home from the pound. Perhaps it was that they understood that they were Snoops’ last hope. With his attitude, nobody else was going to take him.

Though Snoops should have been an outdoor cat, he was kept indoors by the two. They were afraid that someone would harm the cat. But he was much too large for the house.

There were times the two thought they should get rid of Snoops. He could be cantankerous, even to them. When he was in one of his moods, they knew they had better watch out. As he became older, those moods increased until it appeared there wasn’t a break between them.

Only the mother’s voice soothed him. She sang to him, “Here Kitty, Nice Kitty, Little Ball of Fur”. He curled up and purred. It was as if the demon who tormented Snoops had been lulled to sleep temporarily.

One night, Helene and Helene ate popcorn and watched “The Exorcist”. Snoops was curled up on the couch. The women loved scary movies, the scarier the better. As the credits at the end of the movie rolled across the screen, Helene turned to her mother, “That was something.”

“Yes, it was.”

Then a lightning bolt of an idea struck the two of them. At the same time, they said, “Snoops needs an Exorcist.”

“But how do we get one?” Mom asked.

Helene went to the hall closet and pulled out their computer. With its Windows XP operating system, it took almost a half hour to boot up. She plugged the darn thing into the modem she kept around just in case. Then she headed for a google search.

After an hour’s search, she found just the right website. The Pet Exorcist had a masters degree in Cat Psychology and had been ordained by the Church of the Nine Lives. The reviews glowed with recommendations.

Helene showed her mom. “This is the guy for us.”

She took her cell phone outside. She did not, under any condition, want Snoops to get wind of what she was up to.

“Friday, at 2 pm,” the man’s scheduler confirmed.

Helene and Helene spent the next several days planning their strategy. The morning of the appointment, the daughter put Snoops favorite bowl of kitty food along with some catnip in their cat carrier. He ran in after it, and slam! the door closed. Needless to say, Snoops roared. He scratched. He went after that door like God went after Sodom and Gomorrah. It wouldn’t budge. So he settled down with a look on his face that said I will get you for this.

The exorcist’s office was in one of those run-down shopping malls with weeds growing up through the cracks in the parking lot. On the office window were giant signs, denoting the prices: fish $9.99, dogs $19.99, pigs $99.99, cats $199.99.

Helene said to her daughter, “That’s expensive. Can we afford it?”

“No,” her mother said, then she looked at Snoops. He was baring his teeth and his claws. “But we have no choice.”

The bell over the door rang as the two women and their cat made an entrance. A woman with long, stringy washed-out blonde hair asked in a gravelly sort of voice, “Can I help you?”

“We have an appointment.”

“Walt,” the woman yelled. “They’re here.”

A man straggled from the back room. He was bald, cross-eyed and wore a black robe. He rubbed his eyes as if he was waking up from a dream. Ignoring the others, he went over and poured himself a cup of black coffee. He threw it down his throat, sat the cup down hard beside the pot, then turned and gave Helene and Helene a look that said, “Which of you is the victim?”

Helene said, “No, no, no. The cat’s in here.” She pointed to the carrier on the floor.

The Exorcist dropped to the floor and looked at the cat. Snoops took one look at the man with a green eye and a gray eye and pushed against the back of the carrier. He wanted out and the look on his face said, “Get me out of here. I’m having none of this.” He was scared.

The man sat the carrier on the counter, then said to the women, “You brought cash, I hope.”

Helene, the daughter, reached into her purse and brought out ten twenties. “You can do this?”

The man squinted. “I can do this. The demon’s name is Magillacotty. We’re old friends.”

Suddenly Helene realized his gray eye was a glass eye.

He turned and snarled at the cat. The cat shrank some more at the back of its cage.

“It won’t hurt,” he said. Then he snarled. “Only the demon. The cat won’t feel a thing.” He took the money and handed it to his assistant. He went back to the cat, opened the carrier door, and reached in and firmly pulled Snoops out.

The cat looked up at Helene and Helene and whimpered. Its pathetic whimper said, “Please, please save me. I’ll be good.”

The man sat Snoops down on the wooden counter. He glared into the eyes of the cat and raised his right hand with the palm outward. Then the man’s body grew bigger and bigger. Out of his mouth came words. Unknown words, but words that sounded like an ancient language. Then his body sank and crumpled onto the floor.

On the counter, Snoops was half the size he had been. He gave Helene and Helene the most wonderful meow.

The assistant walked over and threw a blanket over the Exorcist’s body, then she gently picked up Snoops and stroked him. He continued to meow. She handed him over to Helene. “The demon is gone.”

Helene’s mother took the black ball of fur and the two women left with the carrier. All the way home, Snoops slept peacefully in the mother’s lap.

Over the next few days, Helene and Helene were amazed at how well behaved Snoops was. They also noticed he was shrinking to half the size he had been when they left the Exorcist. Deeply concerned, the daughter called the Exorcist’s Office. There was panic in her voice as she spoke into the phone. “Snoops is shrinking.”

“No worries,” the assistant said. “It’s natural. He’s melting.”

“Melting?”

“It happens.”

“How much will he melt?”

“Soon you won’t have any more trouble. Poof! He’ll be gone.”

“No, no,” Helene said. There was desperation in her voice.

“Can’t be helped. That’s exorcism for you.”

“How can we stop Snoops from melting?”

“There’s only one way,” the assistant said. “Put the demon back in. And I’m afraid you don’t want to do that. He doesn’t take well to the procedure and neither will the cat.”

“That can’t be. Snoops has such a wonderful attitude.”

“Give him a couple of days and that’s it.”

Helene hung up and delivered the new to her mother. The two looked over at Snoops. He was such a pitiful sight.

Helene and Helene decided they had no other choice. The daughter called back and asked, “How much for the procedure?”

“$999.99.”

Helene hung up and told her mother. The two looked over at the pathetic cat. Helene’s mother made the final pronouncement. “Sorry, Snoops. I guess we’ll be getting another cat.”

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Heart

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 Creator is the rock band Heart:

Sisters Ann (on vocal) and Nancy Wilson (on guitar) are the heart of the band, Heart. They turned out some of the best rock music in the late 1970s.  But they didn’t stop with the seventies. They drove their sound into the 1980s and 1990s, selling truckloads of records and continue in the 2000s. They were deservedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Along with the Runaways, Ann and Nancy showed the world that women could kick butt and take names. They proved women had the chops to be considered the real deal to play Rock and Roll. Ann’s voice and Nancy’s guitar licks give all their songs that something extra that makes Heart special. And through the years, they have just got better and better.

Crazy on You.

Near 500 words: The Church of the Almost Forgotten

Connie entered the Church of the Almost Forgotten and headed toward the altar. The Church was empty. A few votive candles and the light above the altar provided the only light. She slowly made her way toward her usual pew. She had come to have a conversation with her uncle, who had passed on ten years before.

She found a pew and took her seat on the wood. There wasn’t a riser for kneeling. The people who came here saw themselves as free people and they were not about to kneel to anyone, not even God.

As she sat contemplating, she let the silence embrace her heart. Then she whispered, “Uncle Matt, it’s me.” Connie was an atheist but there were times she needed to pretend there was an afterlife. The Church of the Almost Forgotten was the place to do that.

“I have a problem. I know you can’t help here but it’s nice just to bring it up to the silence.” She pushed her long auburn hair out of her face.

The silence didn’t answer.

“I think I am in love. The problem is that he is a Christian. Now, I know you didn’t have anything against Christians. And I don’t either. But he insists I convert.”

She waited, and wondered. What had she expected when she came here. Answers.

She continued, “And he’s pretty adamant about that. And he sticks to his Christian guns. He won’t even sleep with me till we’re married. In a church, no less.”

She studied the light above the altar. It was beautiful, its colors changing as it rotated slowly, almost imperceptibly.

“I haven’t been a virgin since I was fourteen. Boy, was that a mistake. I know you warned me, but he was all shiny and wonderful. A regular Lancelot. No wonder Guinevere fell for him with one fell swoop. The guy was irresistible. He sure charmed me out of my panties. You were right. He liked to collect panties. Thank, God. Oops. Sorry I mentioned that guy. It’s just a saying. Something you used to say. Well, I’m thankful he ditched me. Two weeks later, I caught him with my best friend. You know the old saying, ‘He came. He saw. He conquered.’”

Connie still couldn’t stand to see Judith’s face. Betrayer.

“All he wanted was a bit of tail, then it was off to the races again. But he got what he deserved. He got a bad case of the clap. He slept with one girl after another till he slept with the wrong bitch.”

Connie breathed a deep sigh. Five guys she had slept with, and all of them turned out not to be the one. How could she be so wrong about so many. And now this one, who wouldn’t sleep with her. Was it a ruse? Or was he the One every girl talked about? She might be an atheist, but she still had feelings. As many said of her poetry.

“Well, you know how it’s been. Watching me from the other side. Wondering how I can be such a pushover. And I know I am a pushover. Why don’t I just go out and have lots of sex and leave love be? I wish I could. My friend, Olivia, does. And she’s no worse for the wear. And she does have good advice. ‘Always make ‘em wear a condom.’

“I’ve been tempted. And I have done it from time to time. But, I don’t know, Quinton seems so genuine. I met his parents last weekend. Beautiful people.”

Connie looked at her watch. If she didn’t leave soon, she’d be running late.

“Well, thanks for listening. I really appreciate your time.”

She slipped out of the pew and headed toward the giant wooden doors. As she closed the doors behind her, she thought she heard from inside the Church, “No problem.”

She turned to check and opened the door once again. There was no one there.

micropoem for the day: a trail of dust

Back last July, I began posting poetry the four days a week I didn’t post my regulars. Most were either a haiku or a micropoem. I have come to the point where the poems no longer have a freshness to them but seem to be retreads. Besides that, I have longer works I need to be working on. With that in mind, I am taking a break from the daily poetry gig.

In the meantime, I will continue my regular posts Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. From time to time I may post a new haiku or micropoem if I find that they are fresh, In the meantime, here’s one for the road:

So,
as the sun sets,
that masked haiku rider
rides off
with a trail of dust
and a hi-yo haiku