About Don Royster

Don Royster has spent many lifetimes accumulating adventures from a multitude of galaxies. Some of his magic carpet rides have taken him to Japan, the Phillippines, and Texas. Gifted with an insatiable curiosity, a love for creativity and a strange sense of humor, he has been a student, and still is, of everything from A to Zen and back again. Along the way he has written poems, stories and novels about his many adventures and travels. His latest adventure is the blog, Uncle Bardie's Stories & Such.

Grandma’s Chair

“Dad, I want the chair,” Ellen said.

“That was Grandma’s chair and you can’t have it,” her brother, Taylor, said. “I think I should get it. I am the oldest.”

Fred was not happy that his children were fighting over his mother-in-law’s chair. She’d only been dead a week. Now the kids were fighting over her things. God, didn’t they have any sense? What would they be like when he died?

His wife, Madge, interrupted his thoughts. “None of you are getting it. It’s coming home with me and your father.” Madge didn’t even like the damned chair but she was sure as shooting not going to let the kids take it. It was her mother’s, after all.

That’s when Madge’s brother, Carl, stepped in. “You’re not going to take it, Madge. You didn’t even like it. I’m taking it.”

Madge gave Carl a look but figured that settled it. It did not. When it comes to family, it is never settled.

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Finlandia

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 Song is Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia”:

Need I say more.

Near 500 words: The economist

Ester had a head for figures. She was born with it and it drove her crazy when people, especially the politicians, tried to make them lie. Her meeting was not going well. She sat across the table from the Chancellor of the School. They had been arguing for over an hour about the school’s budget. A few of the figures were off and she was concerned. Then the Chancellor let her in on his scheme.

She looked up from her open ledger. “You can’t do that,” she said, frustrated.

The Chancellor’s smile went into a frown. “No, I can,” her boss said. “And I am.”

“I won’t let you,” Ester threatened.

The Chancellor did not like what he was hearing. “There is nothing you can do about it.”

Ester looked down at the ledger and the papers beside them. “But there is.”

The Chancellor glared back at the economist. “You do that and I will destroy you. No one in the country will touch you after I get through.”

Ester was determined. “Allah, the Most Gracious the Most Merciful, will,” Ester said and pushed back her chair and stood up.

“Don’t do this.” There was a pleading in the Chancellor’s voice. “I have no choice. And neither do you.” The plea had turned to a threat.

“Chancellor, we always have a choice.”

Ester was done with the meeting. She opened her briefcase and stacked the papers into it.

The Chancellor’s hands were on the table. They were open and his palms lay still against the wood. He had calmed down from his anger. He knew what he had to do. He didn’t want to do it but he had no choice. “We’ve been friends for a long time.”

Ester closed the case. “Yes, we have. And a friend would not ask another friend to lie for him.” She closed the case firmly, picked it up and headed for the door. One last time, she gave her former friend one last determined plea. “Thomas, don’t do this.”

The door closed behind her.

Thomas went over to the phone and picked it up. “There’s no reasoning with her. Do what you have to do.”

Zeus’ Dilemma

Last Wednesday Zeus decided to come down from his mountain. Olympus had gotten boring lately what with this god and that one trying to out party each other. He wanted to take a looksee around the earth. It had been a bit of days since his last walk around. On top of that, he and Hera had a fight and he just had to get out of the house.

He stepped down onto the earth. The grass was wet and green. It had been awhile since his toesies felt grass. Not since Agamemnon and his bunch whomped up on them Trojans. That’s what Priam and his gang got for putting Poseidon on the pedestal over him. After all, he was the Big Guy. He had the thunderbolts.

It was nice to know that Demeter was doing her job now that Persephone was home for a visit. He took in a long breath of the spring air. Then it hit him. The carbon monoxide. He coughed several times, then cleared his throat.

“Geez, what’s that,” he said to no one in particular. The air was worse than breathing in that stuff he’d breathed when he went down to visit Hades once upon a time.

Poseidon stepped out of the ocean. “Well, it’s about time you came out of your ivory tower and noticed the crap we’re putting up with down here.”

“What is that smell?” Zeus wanted to know.

“It’s those darn chariots the humans have come up with.”

Zeus turned to his brother. “What happened to your nice green color? Man, you look awful.”

Posey was streaked with yellows and blues and purples and all sorts of colors. And they didn’t look pretty. He could have been an abstract painting if he hadn’t been such a mess.

“Junk,” Posey said, displeasure in his voice. “I’d say our brother, Hades, has been up to no good. But even he can’t make a mess like we’ve got down here these days. You seriously have to do something about this place. Remember the lovely wine Bacchus used to make. It’s turned to grape juice these days.”

“Yeah, that Prometheus sure did a number on us,” Demeter said behind Zeus. “He gave the humans fire. What’d they do? They took it and ran with it and now we’ve got a mess.”

“The waters, my kingdom,” Posey protested, “is filled with crap. The fish can’t get a break. The dolphins and the whales constantly protest. I tell them to get in touch with you and give you the old what-for. But you’re never there. What’s with you anyway?”

Zeus had a one-word answer, “Hera.”

“Oh, come now,” Demi said. “Don’t blame on her.”

“I’m telling you,” Zeus said. “After that Hercules, there was no settling her down.”

“Well,” Posey said, “he was your kid.”

“It took me a millennium to get her to let me out of my room. It’s only been recently that she let me out of the house.”

“So,” Demi said, “you just thought you could let things go down here.”

Zeus nodded. “Kinda.”

Then Demi hit him with the news. “You do know what that Thor’s been up to?”

“What?” Zeus said, worried-like.

“He’s been making appearances all over the place. Comic books. Movies. He’s even doing commercials.”

“I knew it,” Zeus said. “I knew it. When Athena suggested we let that Odin go off and have his own kingdom, it was a bad idea. But everybody said she was smarter than the average goddess.”

“Now, now, Dad,” Athena joined the group. “I thought it would be a good idea. It gets cold up there in the north. Nobody wanted to go up there and take care of the Ice Kingdoms. When Odin volunteered, we all agreed. It was for the best. And I wasn’t the one who suggested Thor get his own hammer. You-know-who did that.”

“Hephaestus,” Demi said.

“Hephaestus,” Athena said.

“Hephaestus,” Posey joined the chorus.

Then Athena reminded Zeus, “It wasn’t me who came up with the idea of sending Hephy to the basement where he could play with all his toys.”

“We had to do something,” Zeus said. “It’s all that Aphrodite and her nighty business. She wanted to run out and play with Ares. Little did I know that he was as adept at playing kissy face as he was at war.”

“Apollo didn’t tell you either,” Athena laughed. “Just like him. What good is that gift for prophecy he has if he can’t help his colleagues out.”

Suddenly Apollo appeared. His face filled the sky with sunlight. “Somebody mention my name?”

“Why didn’t you let us know?” Athena asked. “Hephy gave Thor that hammer and now he’s become more popular than the Khardasians? You should have told us.”

Apollo smirked. “What, and spoil all the fun?”

It was then that Ares, the god of war, put in an appearance. He had one heck of a frustrated look on his face. “She’s got a headache. It’s the seventh one this week.”

“Who?” Zeus wanted to know.

“Aphrodite, of course,” Ares let the crowd know.

“Well, that’s what you get for messing around,” Zeus said.

“I was just taking after you, Dad.”

That night Zeus walked into the throne room on Mount Olympus. Hera was waiting. When she saw the look on the Big Guy’s face, she gave him one of her extra-special hugs. They always cheered him up. But not this time.

Zeus plopped his big bottom down on the throne. “It’s all turned out badly.”

“What?” Hera said.

“Everything.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you have kids. You can put everything into raising them and they still turn out the way they’re going to turn out.”

Then Zeus had a brilliant idea. “I’ll turn everything back over to Pater.”

At that, Rhea, his mother, appeared. “Oh no, you’re not. Cronus isn’t having anything to do with the mess you’ve created. We’ve been on a nice long retirement and we’re not bailing you out. And you’re not turning things over to Odin. One Ice Age was enough.”

Hera said, “I know what will help. I’ll give you one of those extra-special massages you love.”

Zeus looked up at his wife. He had a pathetic look on his face. “Not tonight. I have a headache.”

Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: A Murder Needs A-solvin’

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 “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017): 

“A passenger has died,” the brilliant detective, Hercule Poirot announces to the other passengers on the Orient Express. “He was murdered…So let us catch a killer.” Indeed. What would a movie, or for that matter a novel, with the word “murder” in the title be if there wasn’t a murder?

We’ve seen this movie before. In 1974, to be exact. Albert Finney was Sidney Lumet’s Hercule. Lumet gave us an adequate “Murder”, but there wasn’t any thing inspiring about Albert Finney. Other than the scenery and the costumes and a few famous actors going over the top with their caricatures of a performance, there wasn’t much to entertain.

When I saw that Kenneth Branagh, yes that Branagh. You know the one. The guy who played Hamlet in what may very well be the longest version of “Hamlet” ever, and directed it besides. He made sure he got all the words in which made me one of the few folks who sat through the whole darn thing. Well, Branagh directs this remake as well. And he plays the famous detective too.

The previews gave me some nice cinematography but that didn’t seem to be enough to make me give up an hour and fifty-four minutes of my time. I knew it wasn’t bad but I was pretty darn sure it wasn’t good either.

Boy, was I wrong.

Upon a recommendation from a friend, I gave this one a try. Branagh gives us a true entertainment in the best tradition of the word. Yes, there is a murder in this one. And, yes, Poirot is not happy about having to solve it. But what can he do? He’s the only brilliant detective on the Orient Express.

Just in case you didn’t know. This takes place in the 1930s and the Orient Express goes from Paris to Istanbul. And it’s going at a leisurely pace. In other words, slowly.

Poirot has just finished solving a crime in Jerusalem. He’s tired and needs a little me time. Little does he know he’s not going to get it when he steps onto that train in Istanbul. During his sojourn, a rich American approaches him. That American is Johnny Depp, being his most Johnny-Depp-ing. He’s become very a-Depp at that in the last few years. I think his portrayals of Tonto and Jack Sparrow have gone to his head.

Johnny Depp’s Edward Ratchett offers to purchase Poirot’s services. He has been threatened and he needs protection. Unfortunately, Poirot only works for people after they have been murdered. There’s just no way he’s going to be caught dead, protecting someone from getting dead. Once Edward Ratchett is dead, it’s a completely different story.

The piece de resistance of Branagh’s film is the third act. Here we see the humanity in a Poirot that others have only shown as a calculator. Here we are shown the impact of murder on its victim. Not only is the murdered a victim. All who knew and loved the victim have become the killer’s victims. Branagh and his Poirot has managed to pull the true import out of what many would consider a cliche and turn this entertainment into something wonderful. I’m sure Agatha Christie would be pleased.