Near 500 words: The refugee

The photographer spotted the woman, waiting for a bus. When asked who she was, Iriana said to the photographer, “I am a refugee, a woman with no country. All I own is the clothes on my back and what is in my suitcase.” Her clothes were worn but she wore them with dignity.

The photographer asked, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“A cup of tea would be nice.”

Iriana and the photographer went to a little café cradled along the street with tables on the outside. It was decorated with colorful umbrellas to protect from the sun.

They ordered their tea.

“How long has it been since you started being on the run?”

“It’s been years. I keep hoping things will change.”

The waiter brought their tea with some pastry. The café was famous for its pastry.

Iriana took a sip of her tea and a bite of the pastry. She enjoyed the taste. “Ummm, this is good. It never changes. Every time I find a place, there is a revolution. The new guy is just as bad as the last.” Then she began to cry. “My father and brother are in prison. They opposed the last man in charge. Now the new man in charge keeps them there.” Then she spat on the sidewalk and said something in her native tongue. She looked up from the sidewalk. There was anger in her eyes.

“Is there nothing to be done?”

She raised her shoulders and stiffened herself with dignity. She was not about to let anyone else see her weak. She had to be strong for her father and her brother.

“Nothing. They are not important names for the world to care about. For all I know, they could be dead. They are probably dead.”

“Well, maybe I can help.”

“How can you help?”

“I could make their name known. That might pressure the government to release them.”

“Please don’t. That would only give them a reason to execute them.”

The photographer understood. He had heard the same story over and over again. Nothing would help the people he called The Doomed.

“I have a proposition,” he offered.

Iriana was taken aback. “I will not sleep with you. Not for anything. I am a good Christian.”

“No, no, no. Not that kind of proposition. I would like to offer you a job. I would like to ask you to be my assistant.”

Iriana was stunned that someone was offering her such kindness. And a stranger too.

“Then you would no longer be a refugee. Your home would be wherever we went. And perhaps eventually we can work it where your father and your brother are released.”

“You would do that for me?”

“Why wouldn’t I do it for you?”

“I’ve been looking for someone I could depend on for a long time. I think you are the one I’ve been searching for.”

She rose out of the chair and came over and gave the large man a hug. She was crying.

“Please don’t cry.”

“But you’re my angel.”

“One thing is for sure. I am no angel.’

They finished their tea and pastry.

“Let’s go,” he said. “We have work to do.”

Mr. Reynolds and the lighthouse

Nora loved the lighthouse some few miles away from the town. She loved to go down and share a picnic with the lighthouse keeper, Reynolds Reynolds. He had tended the lighthouse since before Nora was born. Her landlady knew him. Said he had come back from the war and taken over the lighthouse.

Now he was in want for an apprentice. No one was interested in the job. It was a lonely seven-day-a week job and there were no days off. Finally he asked Nora.

“What?” she asked. “A woman?”

“Why not?” Mr. Reynolds said. I”t’s been done before. Sandy Sarah was the lighthouse keeper off the cape back before you and I were even thought of. She is a legend. Once when the light went out, she stood out on the rocks and waved a lantern all night during a storm. She died on those rocks. But she saved the lives of a hundred men. She did what lighthousemen have always done. She served the ships.”

Nora gave the thing a think and decided she was up to the offer. The next time she came out to the lighthouse she told Mr. Reynolds. In her late twenties, she had not found the love of her life. So she concluded the solitary life was for her. And the lighthouse would be the first home she had ever had. She had grown up in an orphanage, then taken a room in the local boarding house and earned her living as a typist.

The next time she came out to the lighthouse Mr. Reynolds told her that the Lighthouse League had approved her appointment as an apprentice lightsman. The next day she moved into the extra room at the cottage. The day after that Mr. Reynolds began her schooling of the finer points of lightsmanship. Teaching her how to clean the lens and how often. How to order supplies for the lighthouse. Those kind of things.

In the morning he fixed their late breakfast. In the evenings she made their dinners. In the afternoon after the chores were done, they walked out on the beach.

As time went on, Nora began her love affair with the sea. More and more she thought of it as home. There was a comfort in that. Mr. Reynolds whom she took to calling Reynolds was the father she had never had. And she was the daughter he never had.

Occasionally a visitor would come out to admire the lighthouse or to deliver supplies. They saw these two walking along the shore, two companions who had somehow found each other because of the light.

Twenty years went by and the old man came to the time of his death. His last words to Norah, “I have had only two loves in my life. The light and the light that is you. Thank you for all the happiness you have given me.”

Tears formed in Nora’s eyes. “And I have had only two loves in my life. The light and the light that is you.”

There was peace on the old man’s face as he went off to be a lightsman in another world.

Mr. Reynolds body was cremated. Nora threw his ashes into the sea. Now she was alone. But there were times when visitors would see Nora walking the beach. At her side was an old man.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: The Play’s the Thing. Sometimes.

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 “Me and Orson Welles” (2008), directed by Richard Linklater:

Some people have all the luck. In “Me and Orson Welles”, this high school kid, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), is one of those people. He just shows up and the gods smile upon him. It’s 1937, and Richard’s come into the City, hanging loose with no particular goal in mind. He looks across the street and sees a group of actors waiting.

They are the Mercury Theater Troupe, and they are waiting for the man in charge. The director. And that director is none other than the Boy Genius, Orson Welles (Christian McKay). This was in the days before Welles flew off to Hollywood and made “Citizen Kane”.

Richard walks over to see what’s the deal. Welles shows up. The kid impresses Welles and Welles says, “You’re in the show, kid.” Or words to that effect.

The show is “Julius Caesar”. Welles’ production will wow the New York audiences like nothing since Edwin Booth played Brutus, the same role Welles plays.

Based on the novel by Robert Kaplow, the movie is the behind-the-scenes story of how Welles brought “Julius Caesar” to the New York stage. Christian McKay’s performance as Welles is a tour de force. The movie is well worth seeing for that reason alone. But there are many others, including Claire Danes.

There aren’t that many good movies about the behind-the-scenes work it takes to get a play on the stage. This is one of them.

Near 500 words: The Sixties

The Sixties are a long time gone but lately I have been remembering. During the 1960s, it seemed like everywhere you turned, there were larger-than-life personalities. Not celebrities but people who moved mountains. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.

Every night we turned on the TV and there was Uncle Walter and Johnny Carson to guide us. Carol Burnett made us laugh our booties off. Alan Shepard and John Glenn flew into the outer reaches of space. John Kennedy inspired us to do better for our country and the First Lady showed us style. Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, Billy Graham and the Maharishi quenched our spiritual thirst. Even in the Soviet Union, there was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

No matter what your political persuasion, there was someone for everyone. Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy for the liberals, Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley for the conservatives. And Che Guevara for the radicals.

Ralph Nader, Betty Friedan and Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez dreamed big dreams and shared them with the world. The times were changing. Utopia was just around the corner.

We landed a man on the moon and celebrated our freedom at Woodstock. Then the party came tumbling down with a thud at Altamonte.

By the end of the decade, our innocence was buried in the harsh reality that utopias always end in dystopia. Captain America was shot off his mototcycle. The Beatles broke up and Sgt Peppers disbanded his band. That day in April,1970, was more than the day the music died. It was the day our hearts were broken. It was the day the earth opened up and swallowed our hope.

All we were left with was Richard Nixon and Vietnam, and Superman was only a comic book and Batman a TV show. All we were left with was Kent State, OPEC, Watergate, stagflation and the Brady Bunch. The Seventies brought us plop back down to earth. It was like we had been dropped on our heads and we had a hangover like all get-out.

Then came Camp David and “the City Upon a Hill” of Ronald Reagan. The Berlin Wall came crashing down. For one brief moment, there was a Middle East Peace Accord. Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. For one brief, shining moment, Camelot was shining again. Only to be brought back to our senses by Y2K and 9/11.

But we can never forget those bonfires of hope shining from the Decade That Was: the Peace Corps and Earth Day, Woodstock and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. And we still dream of a better world. It’s just going to be a long time coming. As Jessie Jackson says, “Keep hope alive.”

Snow

Teressa loved wintertime. She loved the chill of it. It gave her a good reason to snuggle up next to her mother. She loved the white of it. A day with snow was so much better than a day without snow. “It just is,” she told her friends. She loved it because sometimes she missed school. That was the best. She wasn’t much of a student.

Sitting in her parents’ house next to the fireplace, she thought about all the stories she could tell about the time it snowed. She could be an Eskimo living in an igloo. She would love to have her own igloo. But where did Eskimos hang their clothes? That might make a good story. An Eskimo who went looking for a clothes hanger and found herself lost on the ice. She smiled, then laughed. What fun that would be.

Her mother heard her laugh all the way in the kitchen. “You okay out there?” she called.

“Yes, Mom,” Teressa called back.

It was a happy home Teressa lived in. But happiness isn’t all its cracked up to be. She wanted a little adventure.

Then she thought of another story. This one featured Santa Claus and the North Pole. Because many of her stories contained Santa Claus and the North Pole, she let that one go. The Santa Claus and the North Pole stories were beginning to repeat themselves.

No, this story about the Eskimo was an intriguing one. The next time she was at the library she would have to read up on igloos and Eskimos and where they hung their clothes. Then she would start that story. Call it “Iglooland”. That would be the best of titles. She really liked it.

She got up and walked to the window and looked outside. The world was white. Snow blanketed everything. Out there was an Eskimo searching for a clothes hanger for her coat. Her warm coat.