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.

Happy 54th Anniversary

“All summer long we were dancing in the sand Everybody just kept on playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.” –from “Summer Rain” written by James Hendrix, recorded by Johnny Rivers.

It was May 26, 1967. If there was going to be a summer blockbuster that summer, it wasn’t going to be a movie. It was going to be an album. Many of us baby boomers were like Millennials, waiting for the release of the latest “Harry Potter”. Instead of standing in line at the bookstores, we waited by our radios. Come midnight, American stations were going to play the new Beatles release.

It had been almost a year since their last album, “Revolver”. We weren’t sure what we would get but we were hungry for some new music from the boys from Liverpool. They had come a long way since their audition with George Martin on June 6, 1962. With seven albums under their belt, we weren’t sure what they would give us. But we were rooting for them. Our ears were about to enter the cinematic wonder of Pepperland.

Earlier in the year, there had been the musical equivalent of movie trailers for the album. In February, they released the forty-five singles, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”.

Finally, everything went quiet on the radio. Then there was the sound of an audience shuffling in its seats. An orchestra tuned up with the fastest orchestra tuning in history. With a barely heard “Roll Over”, Paul struck up the band. Guitars, a strong drum beat, then Paul’s voice announced “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Then he introduced the “one and only Billy Shears”. The Beatles were giving the listener the illusion they were at a live concert.

Like a big band singer from the swing era, the debonair Billy Shears (Ringo) stepped to the mic. He sang one of the Beatles’ best-known anthems, “With a Little Help From My Friends”. Next came John’s surrealistic “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”. A drawing by his three-year-old son inspired its lush images (Margotin, location 5441).

In the past, the Beatles occasionally created fictional characters. These included songs like “Eleanor Rigby”, “Paperback Writer”, and “Taxman”. But these characters and their stories littered “Sgt. Pepper”. In addition to Billy Shears, Lucy and Sgt. Pepper, there was Mr. Kite, the Hendersons, Henry the Horse, Pablo Fanque and Lovely Rita. There was the girl and her parents in the poignant “She’s Leaving Home”. The character in “Good Morning Good Morning” took his marching orders from the rat race. Unlike any album we’d heard before, there was a cinematic effect to the songs. Each song had the feel of a mini-film.

The songs introduced and broadened themes normally not found in popular music. This was due to their encounter with Bob Dylan and his songs. Paul shared his optimism in “Getting Better” and “Fixing a Hole”. John and the band created a circusy number in “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. With “When I’m Sixty-Four”, Paul questioned the lasting nature of relationships. There’s the poignant “She’s Leaving Home”. In “Within You Without You”, George gave us a summary of the Indian spiritual philosophy he embraced. The music reflected the influence from a multitude of musical styles. Then at the end there was the pièce de résistance. The symphonic “A Day in Life” might be thought of as the Beatles “Ode to Joy”.

When we finished that first listen, we realized John was right. On “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite”, he promised, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.” That June night in 1967 left many of us speechless. It was like Christmas, Halloween and the Superbowl all rolled into one.

When we purchased the album the next day, imagine our surprise. Not only were there great songs, there was the cover. There with the Beatles were the images of eighty-five personalities on it. Future generations would play “Where’s Waldo”. That summer we played “Who’s That”. Radio stations gave out prizes for those guessing the famous, and some not so famous, people.

For five months in 1967, Producer George Martin, Sound Engineer Geoff Emerick and four working class guys changed musical history. They showed musicians how to play the recording studio like a musical instrument.

With the album, rock ‘n’ roll entered the Space Age. The Beatles had burst loose from the earth bound “She loves you”. Now they entered the heavens with the Saturn rocket that was “Sgt. Pepper”. They created what “Rolling Stone Magazine” considers the number one album of all-time.

With a trilogy of records, “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper”, the Beatles made albums matter. After “Sgt. Pepper”, singles were no longer cool. Now an album had to be thought out. Artists couldn’t throw together a hit single with a bunch of mediocre songs anymore. Every song had to matter. Album rock had arrived.

If the Beatles had stopped with “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver”, they would be considered one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time. But they didn’t stop. They had to go and outdo themselves. They had to go and make a masterpiece. They had to go and create “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. In doing so, they became Masters of their Musical Universe.

In an interview with Timothy White, George Harrison summed it up for the rest of us: “There seems to be a running thread here about music and its powerful hold, eh…We who love music, we love the people who make it, we love the sound of it, and we love what it does to us, how it makes us feel, how it helps us love”.

Unfortunately, the Beatles never again accomplished what they did on “Sgt. Pepper”. That is, not until they gave us “Abbey Road”.

Edna’s Feet

Dorothy got to return to Kansas, but Edna was stuck in Oz. She could not escape. Edna was envious of Dorothy. Dorothy had those ruby red slippers. All Edna had was a pair of one-size-too-small-and-never-quite-wide-enough brogans. Her left foot was smaller than her right. She never could find a quite-right fit for either foot no matter how hard she tried.

“Will you saw my feet off?” Edna Madison asked the plastic surgeon. She patted her thinning red hair. She was not at all concerned that she was going bald. She kept her hair long though it was fine, thin, too curly. It always appeared as if it was ready to fly away. No, what really bothered her was her feet. They were too tiny, too elfin, or too petite, or too large. Unlike Goldilocks’ shoes, they were never just right.

The doctor responded to her inquiry, “No,” I won’t.”

Edna walked to the bus, her eyes on her feet, making sure her feet were walking correctly, one after another in the right direction. If they walked incorrectly, there was no telling where they would lead. She sat in her seat on the bus, disappointment filling her pear-shaped face. A woman across from her asked, “Are you alright?”

“No, I’m not,” Edna answered. “It’s my feet.”

“I know what you mean,” another woman said. “I just can’t find a comfortable pair of shoes.”

Edna listen to the two women discussing shoes, and smiled. They affirmed that she was not crazy even though her younger brother, Raymond, thought so. Other women had the same problem she had. Bad feet.

In her small apartment, she threw herself into the large chair in her living room. Tears formed, then she was crying. Why would nobody help her? Sitting there in her frustration, an idea came to her.

“I shall walk my feet off.” She strategized how she would do it. The more she thought about what she was going to do the more she liked it. Before she made the walk, she had to tell her therapist at her next appointment two days away. As much help as he had given her, it wouldn’t be right not to let him in on her plan. She was absolutely certain he would approve.

She slipped off her shoes. Not only were they uncomfortable, they were ugly. She stood up and walked across the carpeted room, her feet tortured by the eggshells of her imagination. In front of the window and balcony were stacks of cans. They were her fortress wall against the world and its dangers outside. Inside the apartment it was safe.

She picked up a can of corn and a can of green beans. Slowly she hobbled to her kitchenette and sat down on the stool. From her perch, she was able to reach her stove and her sink and her cabinets. She made herself a supper from the two cans. After eating the meal on the stool, she phoned her brother. “Ray, can you come by tomorrow? I have to go grocery shopping. I have no corn.”

“I’ll be by the first thing in the morning. You be ready, you hear? I won’t have all day.”

“I will be ready.”

From her perch, she reached over to her tea kettle, took it and filled it with water, then put it on the stove to heat up. While the water heated, she washed her dishes, then waited on the water to boil. Soon it was whistling. She then fixed herself a cup of tea. Sitting on the stool, her feet in the air, she enjoyed her tea.

The apartment was dark when she decided to get ready for the next morning. Over the next couple of hours she bathed, pulled on clean undies and took out a bright red dress from her closet of bright red dresses. It was just the right one for grocery shopping. She dressed herself. Then she ran a comb through what was left of her hair and tied a ribbon around her head. Of course, It was a bright red ribbon. She was ready for the grocery store. She went and sat in the large chair and waited in the dark. Her mind focused on the task she would be doing in two days time. A question bothered her. Why had she not thought of this perfect plan before?

At eight the next morning, Ray knocked on the door.

“It’s open,” Edna said.

Her brother came into the apartment and walked over and kissed her on the forehead, then said, “Looks like you’re ready.”

“I am.”

Knowing the bother his sister had with her feet, he asked as he always did, “You sure you don’t want me to get you a wheelchair? You wouldn’t have to walk then.”

Edna was a proud woman, so she said her usual no. She slipped her shoes on, stood up and walked across the invisible eggshells and came to the door. She reached for the door to regain her balance so she wouldn’t fall.

Ray went to catch her. Edna said, “Don’t.”

“Boy, you’re stubborn.”

Edna followed Ray to his car and got in. They began their monthly routine. They stopped off and had pancakes for breakfast, then drove on to the grocery store. Following her list, she filled her cart with can after can of food, then she added tea and toiletries and paper products and odor eaters and other foot items. If it wasn’t on her list, she passed it by, sometimes commenting, “Next time.” She stopped and looked longingly at the ice cream case. Though she loved ice cream, she refused to buy it. Her feet would get too fat.

Each time Edna took an item off the shelf, she examined it to make sure it was the right item. She counted its cost in her head to make sure she wasn’t overspending. Her brother quietly followed her. He knew not to say anything. It would throw Edna off her ritual, and they would have start over with an empty cart. At the cashier, Edna did not look up at the girl. She kept her eyes on her feet.

“$71.99, ma’am,” the girl said.

Edna did not argue. It was the amount she had added in her head. To the cent and including tax. She reached into her large handbag and pulled out a number of coupons and passed them over to the cashier. The girl rang up the coupons.

“Your total is $25.34,” the girl said, then to be friendly, “Looks like you’ve hit the jackpot.”

Edna was not in the mood for friendly gab. She never was. She counted out the exact amount of bills and change, not handing it to the girl but laying it on cashier’s counter. The girl took her money and handed her the receipt.

“Would you like me to take these to your car?” the bag boy asked.

“No,” Ray said. “We’ll managed.” Pushing the cart, he followed Edna to his car.

At her apartment, Ray dropped her and her groceries off, then left. Edna unpacked her goods, stacked the cans in front of her window and put away the rest of the items. Then her tired body surrendered to her bed.

The next afternoon Edna sat before Dr. Michaels, her therapist.

“How are you doing, Edna?” he asked his patient, a patient he’d seen for five years once a week on Thursday afternoons at three.

“My feet hurt, Doctor,” she said. Her eyes looked down at her lap, not at the therapist.

Doctor Michaels studied his patient as he always did. They had been through this routine a couple of hundred times.

“Still can’t find the right shoes, huh?”

Edna didn’t answer. Her therapist knew the answer. She didn’t need to tell him.

“Why won’t you let me get you a wheelchair?” he asked.

“I’m not an invalid,” she said.

“Of course, you’re not. But you wouldn’t have to be on your feet.” he said. If he could just get her to agree, it would be such a tremendous help to her. But she wouldn’t give in. She wouldn’t take to the chair.

He changed the conversation. “Don’t you have a birthday this Saturday?” he asked.

She looked up at his face. He had never asked her about her birthday. “Yes.” Her head dropped back to looking at her chest.

“Edna, I hope you know that you are my favorite patient. We’ve been together for a long time and I always look forward to your visits.”

Edna looked up at the therapist again. She studied his face. Satisfied that he was being serious, she smiled. She had not smiled in Doctor Michaels’ office for at least two years. The last time was when he told her a joke she found funny. She didn’t find many things funny.

It was time to tell him her plan. The one where she would walk her feet off.

Before she could say anything, he continued, “I don’t usually do this, but I thought it would be okay since you are my favorite patient. I bought you a gift.”

Edna was stunned. Doctor Michaels bought her a present? Doctor Michaels bought her a present. It had been a very long time since anyone other than Ray gave her a gift.

The therapist reached into his desk drawer, pulled out a package and handed it to Edna. The box was wrapped in bright red paper with a bright red ribbon.

Edna didn’t know what to do. She set it on her lap and stared at it.

“Well, open it,” he said.

“It’s so beautiful. I shouldn’t. I can’t. I would ruin it.”

“No you won’t,” he urged. “The box isn’t the gift. The gift is inside. Go ahead and open it.”

Edna slowly untied the ribbon, then carefully undid the tape that held the paper in place. She slipped the box out from the paper. She opened the top of the box. And there they were. A pair of ruby red slippers. Just like the ones Dorothy wore.

Doctor Michaels had never seen Edna’s face glow the way it did at that moment.

Tears began to roll down her face. The therapist handed her a tissue. She wiped her eyes.

“Don’t you want to try them on?”

Edna shook her head no. She couldn’t. Besides they wouldn’t fit.

“Go ahead, Edna,” he urged. “Try the shoes on.”

She couldn’t bring herself to remove them from the box.

“Can I put them on your feet?”

Edna nodded yes.

Doctor Michaels went to take the box. Edna held onto it tightly. He loosened her grip and took the box and removed the shoes from it. He kneeled down at her feet and removed her shoes, then he slipped the ruby reds onto her feet.

Edna couldn’t believe it. For the first time in years, her feet felt good.

They. Felt. Great.

“Stand up,” the therapist said.

“Oh, no,” she said. “I can’t. They’ll hurt.”

“Edna,” he ordered. “Stand up.”

Edna obeyed. She stood up and still her feet felt good. She walked around the office. If feet can feel happy, her feet felt happy.

“Do you like them?”

Edna couldn’t say anything. She hugged her good doctor. Then kissed him on his cheek. Silently she picked up her things and walked out of her therapist’s office.

“Mrs. Wheeler,” she said to the secretary on her way out. “I will see you next week.”

The secretary was surprised. Edna never spoke to her.

Edna walked out into the street and toward the bus stop, her feet feeling like they were walking on air. She held her head high so that the world would know she had just arrived in Kansas and that she was never going back to Oz.

Not For Him

A boy, just about nineteen, t-shirt and jeans and sneakers, looks through the window of a diner. Sees the girl for him. She’s a waitress ’bout six foot tall. And blonde. Then again her hair’s not blonde but white. As white as a white washed fence. She looks up from the order she’s taking and sees him gazing at her. He turns away from the window. She is not for him. Just not for him. They never are. The girls, that is. So he returns to his walking the late night streets of the city. Under a bridge and down an alleyway he walks, thinking of nothing in particular. The girl in the restaurant comes to mind. But she’s not for him. What would she see in him? After all, he’s got a broken nose and freckles sprinkled all over his face and his red hair. Every one saying he’s an ugly he beats to a pulp. They’re not saying it anymore. But he knows he is what they would be saying if they were not afraid. The night keeps his face out of the light. So she’s not for him. And he’s walking down the Not-for-him Street. “He’s nothing but trouble,” his dad has been saying for years and years. His mom not saying it, but she’s thinking he is. He is hiding out in the nighttime streets of the city where anyone can hide from his fears and his loneliness. So what if she’s not for him. How’s he ever going to know if he don’t turn around and go. Back to the diner and the girl with white hair he saw in the light through the window. So he sheds himself and heads on back to the maybe-it’s-possible in a diner off the main street of the city. On he walks, walking off the tough, shedding his fear, ready to give loneliness the old t.k.o. He trudges on but maybe she’s really not for him. How’s he ever gonna know if he don’t go ask. His dirty sneakers and blue jeans and t-shirt find their way back at the diner just as the night turns off and it’s just about daybreak. She’s getting off her shift and she’s just leaving the diner when he rounds the corner and she’s sees him coming to her. But he’ll pass her by. One thing for sure. He’s not for her. He’s not for her.

Before the walls

The old man Priam came to the tent of Achilles
to plea for the body of his son, the old man came
for Hector slain before the walls where Patroclus fell
before the walls, before the walls of the city
where ten thousand Greeks were cut down,
and ten thousand Trojans more.

Priam mourned and Achilles too, they cried for all
the dead that night, these sons of Mars grieved the deaths.
They spoke of heroes, of horses and the sea.
“I was a child once,” the king said, “the city my home.”
“I was a boy too on an island a distance away.”
“I was a rider of horses.” “I a runner of races,” Achilles

unburdened his heart. “Then I took up the spear.”
“And I the shield.” “King, you make a good shield.”
“You are a great spear. Without you, the Greeks would be gone.”
“Why did my cousin die?” “Why did the gods steal my son away?”
“You are a king and I but a man, yet we grieve the same.”
“This is why the gods gave us tears,” the old man said.

And what did the Warrior say? “Tears are not enough.
The grief that I fear will never fall away.” “Nor mine.”
The old man carried his son home to the Funeral Games
before the walls that were once the city of Troy,
home to Helen and Paris, Andromache and once Hector,
the first-born of Hecuba and Priam inside the walls

of Troy.