Near 500 words: To Shop Or Not To Shop

Matthew hated shopping. He put it off as long as he could, then he went out and shopped till he dropped. At least, that was how he put the whole thing. Mel loved to shop and couldn’t contain herself when she did. Any day was a shopping day for her. Matthew was on one of his excursions when he accidentally bumped into Mel. They were standing in line at a cashier’s station.

“Ouch,” she said and turned to Matthew behind her.

“Oh, sorry,” Matthew came back with.

Over the years, she had said ouch and he had said sorry for what must have been hundreds of times. He always ended up bumping into others. She always ended up being bumped into. This time it was different. They saw something in each other that they had never seen in another human being.

Matthew made the first move. “I really am sorry.”

“And I really did feel an ouch.” She laughed. Mel laughed often but there was something about this laugh. It filled up her face and went all the way to her toes. Mel wasn’t sure what was going on but she liked it. She like it so much she said, “Would you like to get a cup of coffee?”

Matthew hesitated. He had so much shopping to do. He had put it off for a long time.

“With me, I mean,” Mel added.

Her “with me I mean” made up his mind. “Yes, I’d like that.”

They paid for their items, then went over to the nearby food court. Saw a Starbucks. Ordered. Then found a table.

Matthew wasn’t sure where to begin.

“Why don’t you begin at the beginning,” she answered his unspoken query.

He took a sip of his coffee. It was hot. Burned his tongue a bit. “I’m Matthew.”

“And I’m Mel.”

It was a beginning. What next? Where were they going to go to now? They both looked at the other and neither could come up with a thing to say.

Matthew studied her face. She had a nice face. Not beautiful. The word “comely” came to him. Hazel eyes, a middle-sized nose, small mouth that became large when she laughed. Auburn hair that fell pleasingly onto her shoulder. And she smelled like cherries. Matthew loved cherries. How they smelled. How they felt in your mouth. How they tasted.

Matthew did not have the best of faces. It looked like it had some wear and tear. Mel concluded that came with experience. He was starting to lose his hair. In a few years, he would be bald like her dad.

As they sat there, they weren’t able to come up with small talk. Mel could small talk her friends to death. Especially about shopping. But not here with Matthew. Matthew had never been much for small talk. It just wasn’t in him.

After fifteen minutes, Matthew asked, “Would you like to go to dinner? With me, that is?”

Mel wasn’t sure why she answered the way she did but she gave him a yes.

Neither moved from where they were. Something kept them there. It was like they had known each other for a very long time. In a previous life perhaps.

Then Matthew said, “You know I hate shopping.”

“I love shopping.”

Matthew’s face showed that he had an idea. “Would you help me with my shopping?” the words stumbled out.

Mel reached over and squeezed his hand. “I would love to go shopping with you.”

Matthew and Mel then left the table, holding hands.

From another table, two men watched the whole episode with Matthew and Mel. The taller of the two said, “Finally we’ve gotten them together. Contact Command and let them know we’ve accomplished our mission.”

“You think they’ll be okay?”

“They have to be. Our planet depends on it.”

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The New Mayor

The new mayor walked through the front door of the City Hall. “Mr. Mayor,” his predecessor said as he put his hand out. Kevin reached out and shook his hand.

“Mr. Mayor,” Kevin said.

“Follow me,” Drew said. He led Kevin down the hall toward the elevator. As the two of them walked, Drew explained what each office was and who worked in it. Drew introduced Kevin to each person in that office. Kevin was surprised that Drew knew everybody’s name.

Just as they came to the elevator, Drew stopped and introduced Kevin to one of the janitors.

“This is Hector. He is here from Puerto Rico. He and his family moved here ten years ago.” Then he turned to Hector and said something in Spanish.

After a few words with Hector, the two stepped into the elevator. As the elevator lifted toward the third floor, Kevin asked, “What were you saying to Hector?”

“I was asking him about his daughter, Maria. She has cancer.”

“How do you keep track of everybody?” Kevin asked, amazed at the previous mayor.

“I take the time,” Drew said. “And I get out of the office. At least, half of my day. It’s my job.”

“I thought your job was getting things done.”

“There’s only so much you can do. You get a lot more done if you get to know the people you’re doing the things for. Do you really want what they want?”

“But—”

“Oh, I see. You think staying in the office? Studying budgets? Meeting with bigwigs? That’s my job? No, no, no. My job is serving the people, not the bureaucracy and the money. That’s why you beat me. Because I forgot that.”

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Gabriela Montero

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 pianist and composer Gabriela Montero:

Gabriela Montero knows how to boogie. And she knows how to boogie all sorts of music.

Gabriela Montero is a classical trained pianist from Venezuela. But she doesn’t just perform classical pieces the way they are normally performed. Often she improvises those pieces the way a jazz musician improvises and perhaps the way some of the composers improvised. Often she asks for suggestions from the audience or the musicians in the orchestra.

Here she is performing Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor Op. 48, Nº 1:

And here’s a documentary of her piece: “Ex patria”:

Near 500 words: Personalized Poems

Some will do anything for love. Jay was thinking. What could he do to get Dab’s attention? He had been in love with her since he saw her six months before, coming out of Apartment 12B. He would say, “Hello.” She was always courteous. She said hello back to him, and that was it.

Once he went across the street and stood on his head as she walked out of the building. It started to rain and he was left wet. She laughed, plopped open her umbrella, then went on her way.

Then it hit him. He was pretty darn good at writing poems. At least, that was what his literature teacher said.

He put on his khaki shorts, sneakers and blue t-shirt. He made a large sign out of the cardboard box he had in the corner. On it, he wrote “Personalized Poems” in black marker. He took some cord and tied it to each end of the sign, threw it over his head, adjusted it against his chest, put on his straw hat, grabbed his clip board, placed some nice stationery on it and stepped out into the hallway of his apartment.

Mrs. Claymor saw him. Looked at the sign. “Write me a poem,” she demanded.

“Five bucks,” he said.

“What if I don’t like it?”

“Then you don’t like it.”

“Do it get my money back?”

“Of course,” he said, wanting to get on with things and find Dab.

“Does it rhyme?”

“It might just rhyme. Then again you might not be the kind of person who gets a rhyme. Some of the best poems never rhyme.”

“How long will the poem be?”

He wasn’t sure but five lines came to him. Mrs. Claymor liked that, smiled and handed Jay her five bucks. By the time Jay left the apartment building he had made fifty bucks.

Out on the street, several people stopped him and wanted poems. A woman with her daughter wanted one for the child.

Each poem took about five minutes of writing in his beautiful script. One was about how the woman made the sun smile. Another was the story of coming out of a dark tunnel and the woman provided the light. He wrote a poem for a man who had lost his job. And one for a woman who had just been hired. But still no Dab.

As he was about to head back into his apartment building, Dab approached him. Goosebumps appeared on the back of his neck.

She smiled and said, “Write me a poem.”

Jay had saved his best work for this one moment. He quickly wrote her poem and handed it over to her. She gave him the five bucks.

“No, no,” he lied. “This is my hundredth poem. It’s a free one.” He placed the money back into her hand.

She read the poem and said, “What dribble.” Then she dropped the paper on the sidewalk. She walked away.

At that moment, Jay’s world came crashing down. He stood in the middle of the sidewalk with tears in his eyes, thinking what a fool he was. Why did he think this would impress Dab? He felt like a man suddenly caught with no clothes on. He looked up at the side of the apartment building and saw his apartment window on the twelfth floor. He would be dead by the time he hit the ground.

“Hello,” a voice came from behind him. It was soft and light just like one of his poems.

He turned and a woman was holding his Dab poem in her hand.

“How did you know?” she said.

“Know?”

“Yes, this is—” she stumbled over the words. “This is my poem.”

“It is?”

“And it just made my day.”

“It did?”

She looked at the poem again, then back up at Jay. “I’m Carol. Can I buy you dinner?”

Acting Job

“To brush or not to brush, that is the question,” the actor recited his lines for the commercial. The actor stopped. His face said, “What is my motivation?” But he was afraid of the director.  He had heard that many an actor had been fired because he spoke up.

“Cut,” the director screamed. “You are not a method actor. Just say the lines.”

The actor came back, “But— “

“No ifs, ands or buts. You’re not Pacino or Brando. You’re just a half awake guy who has no purpose in his life but brushing his teeth. Get it.”

“I guess.” Disappointment was in the actor’s voice. He wanted this to be a great work of art, his part in this commercial.

Here this director was demanding him to be a robot. He was not a robot. He had ambition. He was going to be the next Jack Nicholson or Dustin Hoffman. This commercial was beneath him but his agent told him to take it. Because his career was going nowhere. If he blew this commercial, the agent threatened to quit him. So here he stood on the set of the commercial with a tube of toothpaste and a brush.

He took a deep breath and waited.

The director said, “Action.”

The actor looked into the lens of the camera. He stared at the brush, then at the toothpaste. Then he said, “To brush or not to brush. That is the question.” The words came out as Donald Duck-speak.

The director yelled, “Cut.”

He stood up and walked over to the actor. He put his arm around the actor and said, “That’s more like it.”