Classic Uncle Bardie: Three Cats’ Christmas

Like “A Bob Crachit Christmas”, I posted this one back in December, 2013. Even though Christmas has passed, I thought this would be a nice reminder. Hope you enjoy as much as I did writing it.

Three cats under the Christmas tree
Buster, Sister, Mama Peaches
All purring their yuletide carols
On this the night before Christmas.
They’ve kneaded their joy, now they rest
Curled up next to tinsel and snow,
Dreaming their dreams of Santa Paws
Meowing his jolly ho-ho-ho,
Hoping for some kitty-katnip
And a ball of yarn for their play.
Maybe a mouse or even two.
They dream and sleep this night away
But soon will come the Christmas morn
And all will be right with these three
For they will wake with a good stretch
And a big yawn under that tree
After a game of give-and-take.
They’ll hurry for their bowls of food
And munch and crunch and lick their paws
Clean and they’ll be in the best of moods.
Then they’re off for the Big Outside.
But before they rush out they take
One last turn ‘round the Christmas tree
Just so the three can celebrate
How long long ago a Babe
In a manger lay in the cold
Without a blanket or cover,
And no more than a few hours old,
When one scrawny and feral cat
Crawled in and curled about the Child
And kept the Baby warm that night.
Let Him sleep with a sweet, sweet smile.
The morning came, the sun did rise
Up east and warmed the Child below
While the cat slinked away, no more
To be seen but all the cats know:
How that Cat gave all that he had
Enough to keep away the freeze.
So now in heaven there’s a Cat
That never has to scratch for fleas.
As our three cats go out to roam
This Christmas day they take delight.
It was one of them, some Unknown
Company to Jesus that night.

Classic Uncle Bardie: A Bob Cratchit Christmas

This is a repost from way back yonder in 2013. 2016’s been such a bah humbug of a year I thought you, my friends, deserved an extra special story for this fine Christmas day. So here is one that is loosely based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

Ebenezer Scrooge was dead, had been dead for two years now. Everything he owned, his business, his savings, his house, even his cherished collection of exotic door knockers, everything with the name of Scrooge upon it he willed to Bob Cratchit.

Before he died, and after the incident with the ghosts, Scrooge had grown kinder and kinder. His business prospered even more than it did before that particularly frightening episode with the three ghosts. In the old gentleman’s waning years, he developed a special affection for his trustworthy clerk. Bob Cratchit became the son he always wanted.

It was the day before Christmas Eve. The staff at Marley, Scrooge, & Cratchit came in to work for a bit of good cheer, and their Christmas bonuses. Bob Cratchit was a generous man, so they were very pleased with the envelopes he delivered into their hands. With a “Merry Christmas and God bless us each and every one” from their employer, they were all out of the office by noon.

“Lock up as you go out,” a prematurely gray Cratchit called from his back office to his young assistant, Irving.

“Yes, sir.”

Bob Cratchit heard the door close, and he was alone with his mug of cider. It would be a lonely Christmas this year. All the members of his family were off on holiday expeditions, and he was left alone without anyone to share the Nativity with. There had been a time when the family cherished each other for themselves, when he had been Tiny Tim’s only horse, when they were poor, and happy.

It seemed as if only Bob Cratchit had escaped their good fortune unscathed. His wife, Mary, was always off on one of her little trips these days. This Christmas she was up visiting their oldest daughter in Edinburgh. Martha had married a count. Or was it a baron? Bob couldn’t quite get it straight which. They had a new baby for Mrs. Cratchit to spoil. How he missed Mary’s cooking. She had to be the best Christmas-goose-cook in the whole of England.

His son, Peter, was abroad this year with several of his playboy friends. Belinda, his youngest daughter, was on tour in Wales, acting in the latest Globe Players Production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”.

The most disappointing of all was Tiny Tim. The operation Scrooge had paid for healed him of his affliction and Timothy Cratchit was no longer Tiny. He was now an Esquire, a very successful solicitor, and a Right Honourable Member of Parliament. He would be with the Tory Party leaders this Christmas on a retreat or some such thing which his father had nary an idea about.

Though proud of his family, they were never around anymore and he no longer found delight in the blessings bestowed upon them. Only the business brought him any satisfaction these days. And he wasn’t very good at that.

Things began to go downhill shortly after Scrooge’s death. In the two years since the funeral, he had managed to loose most of his benefactor’s capital. Upon reflection, Cratchit really couldn’t understand why but he knew he had to get to the bottom of things, and soon. Or Marley, Scrooge, & Cratchit would close its doors forever. Though he had done everything the way Scrooge had taught, the books were all in the red. Soon it would be Debtors’ Prison for Robert Elroy Perciville Cratchit.

He finished off his cider and thought how much he missed those long winter nights with Mr. Scrooge, or Ebenezer as he insisted Bob call him. As they drank their mugs of smoking bishop, that Christmas punch Londoners especially cherished, they warmed themselves by the old man’s fireplace. Ebenezer passed along his tidbits of business acumen, secrets of a master business magician to his apprentice. But, without Scrooge to cast his spell, the business was falling apart. The younger man had perhaps a year left, then bankruptcy.

It was getting late, almost night, when Bob Cratchit finally bundled himself up, his shoulders stooped with the weight of money and its worries. Money was not the root of evil but the worry of it must surely be.

He walked out into the London fog and locked his office door behind him. The bell of the church nearby tolled six. The street lamps were already lit. Soon the city would be dark, except for what little light the lamps gave off.

“Would you care for a carriage, sir,” a coachman offered from his horse-drawn taxi.

“No, thank you. I believe I’ll walk.”

Though the night air was nippy, it was not chilly enough for him to deny himself a brisk evening walk. He loved this time of year when the city streets and the lights from the houses along the way reminded him of earlier Cratchit family yuletides when they were poor. The simple joys of a Christmas pudding, a Yule log, and the unwrapping of their meager gifts. But that was then. Now the Cratchits were a wealthy merchant family, and as stylish as could be. All of London envied them their good fortune.

“Then Merry Christmas, sir,” the coachman said.

“A very Merry Christmas to you as well.”

As he strolled along, he passed a court yard. Workmen were finishing their repairs on the gas pipes. Several ragged men and boys stood around the brazier nearby and warmed their hands. Bob Cratchit walked past them and past the ancient gothic church. He dropped a coin into each of the beggars’ hands as he came upon them and wished each a Merry Christmas. He walked past a number of houses, the smell of roast turkey and goose and hen and Christmas pudding from them filling his nostrils with the happiest of smells. Strolling along the streets were bands of carolers, singing their “God rest ye merry gentlemen.”

Bob Cratchit made his usual stop for his supper in one of several of the taverns along the way home. He read his newspaper, then had his usual conversation with the tenants of the tavern. After an hour or so of this, he was out the door and back into the fog and the frost. Soon he found himself standing at the front of the house Scrooge had willed him.

He walked through the old black gateway to the house. He placed his key in the door and turned it. As he went inside, he felt a chill pass through him, a bit chillier than the night air that he was escaping. He shook himself free from the feeling and closed the door and stepped into the dark room that had become his home. He went to light a fire in the large fireplace but decided against it. Instead he lit a candle.

Standing there in the dark with only the candle for light, he looked up at the large portrait of a smiling Ebenezer Scrooge hanging from the wall. But tonight the old man was frowning back at him. Bob Cratchit closed his eyes, then opened them again. His benefactor was not frowning. He was smiling as he always did.

“Now I’m seeing things. Perhaps this is what Ebenezer meant by humbug.”

As he retired deeper into the cavity of the house, he found himself inside his bedroom. It would be another long, lonely night in this gloomy bedchamber Scrooge once occupied.

He closed the heavy door behind him and quickly dressed into his long night shirt and crawled in beside his bed warmer. He blew out the candle that he sat on the bedside table. Soon he dozed off.

Startled awake by some eerie sound, he sat up.

A squeak, perhaps from a mouse that had chosen his room for its home. But it didn’t sound like a mouse.

An icy breeze filled the room. The window was open, he guessed. He looked over at it. The window was closed. He shivered.

Slowly a translucent gray mist moved through the door.

Bob Cratchit grabbed his quilt and pulled it over his head as he lay back in the bed. Then he worked up his courage and he pushed the quilt down. After all, he was a modern nineteenth-century man. Humanity had banished all its needs for fear. Scientific progress was its destiny.

So what was there to be afraid of?

Absolutely nothing.

He lit his candle to abolish his fear. Then he looked over at the book on his bedside table. The title on the cover read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the distance, the church bell struck midnight.

Bob Cratchit looked up at the door. His face turned pale.

Wh-wh-wh-what.

Before him stood a large specter.

“Bob Cratchit, Ebenezer Scrooge sent me,” the unearthly visitor whispered. “I am the Ghost of Business Past.”

God bless you everyone and a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from your friend, Uncle Bardie.

Halloween Brew

Happy All Hallows’ Eve to you and yours.

‘Tis a dark and stormy night

The vampires are out for a bite

And the ghosties on the prowl

Something out there’s smelling foul

While down in Zombie Town

There’s the howl of a devil hound

And deep in Castle Vlad

Frank ‘N’ Stein are in their lab

Mixing up their ghoulish stew

Stirring up that Halloween Brew.

On Transylvania Street

There’s a lot of trick or treat

As the jack ‘o lantern choir

In their Halloween attire

Walk the walking dead dance

Skeletons doing their scary prance.

The headless horseman rides

With his head held at his side

In the Grand All Hallow’s

Eve Parade and Spooktastic Show.

Under a full witching moon

Midnight’ll be here soon

Then at “The Pit and Pendulum”

They’ll gather with their ghastly grins

For the Ushers will be there.

A cask of Amontillado they’ll share.

They’ll spill their tell-tale hearts

Spinning tales of the darker arts

And the time of the Halloween Brew

When they drank F ‘N’ S’s stew.

Another year rolls around

And the dead sleep safe and sound.

Then October shall arrive

When the dead come alive

For another show and tell

Under autumn’s darkest spell

When the goblins take to the air

For the Great Halloween Affair

And more of that Good Stew,

A tall hot mug of Halloween Brew.

The Thing They Carried

It could have been the Germans. It could have been the Japanese. It could have been the Russians. But it was the Americans. The United States was the only nation with the resources to be able to create such a Thing. It was a Thing made for one job. For one purpose.

Since the Nazis launched their blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939, since the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor, war raged around the world. Millions were refugees, dead or held in concentration camps. It was time for it to be over. It would take a Thing to bring it to an end.

The question was: Would it work? The scientists said it would work. The tests had given them the assurance that it would work. But no one was absolutely sure. They would not know until those final moments over Japan. Until it was dropped.

By August, 1945, the Nazis had surrendered. But not the Empire of Japan though it was defeated. It had no air force to speak of. It was under allied blockade. Many of its greatest cities, including Tokyo, were devastated by the firebombing American B29s. Yet the military fanatics who led Japan had decided that the Empire would go down in a blaze of glory rather than submit.

The Japanese military used fifteen and sixteen-year-olds as pilots of planes that were designed to be nothing more than bombs to crash into ships. They fired human torpedoes from their submarines. This was a foreshadowing of things to come if the United States invaded the Japanese homeland. Every man, woman and child was to be a kamikaze. Even Japanese school girls were taught to attack the enemy with spears. Suicide was preferable to surrender.

Few events were as controversial as the decision to drop the Thing. It was debated among the scientists who created It. It was debated by both the civilian and the military leadership in Washington, D.C. President Truman decided the Japanese leaders had left him no choice. After discussions with his advisers, he came to believe that the Thing would shorten the war and save not just thousands of American lives but millions of Japanese as well.

The Thing’s name was Little Boy, also known as the Gadget, the Device, the Gimmick, the S-1, and the most technical of all names, It. It was created at Los Alamos in New Mexico. Then It was assembled 5500 miles from there on Tinian Island, a part of the Marianas in the Pacific. On the night of August 5, 1945, the technicians wheeled It out to a special loading pit to be lifted up into the the bay of the B29 that was to deliver It.

Hours before the mission, the crews of the 509th Composite Group waited. They did what crews do the night before an important mission. A few ate. Some lay in their bunks and thought about loved ones. Some drowned their homesickness with a few shots of whiskey. Some played poker. One, a Catholic went to confession. Another spent his time briefing the New York Times reporter assigned to the mission. The navigator checked his flight bag to make sure his navigational tools were all in order. Each found a way to while away the hours that dragged.

Practice. Practice. Practice. For months, the team had practiced dropping The Thing, then make a 155 degree turn to get the hell out of there. Now there was a different kind of practice. Just in case of a crash upon take-off, the weaponeer decided to load and arm the Thing once the plane was in the air. In the hours before the takeoff, he practiced inserting the explosive charge and the detonator into the Thing. Difficult work to do considering how tight, how hot, how poorly lit the bay of the B29 that was to carry It. When offered a pair of gloves, the weaponeer said no. “I’ve got to feel the touch.”

At midnight, the commander of the mission gave a final briefing. He was the pilot of the B29 that would deliver the Thing to its destination. He finished with a word of advice for the twenty-six airmen in the room. “Do your jobs, obey orders, don’t cut corners.” Then the crew had breakfast while the flight engineer went out to the plane for his preflight check.

Early in the morning of Monday, August 6, 1945, the rest of the crew—the pilot, the co-pilot, the navigator, the electronic countermeasure man, the two radar operators, the bombardier, the tail gunner, and the ordinance expert—climbed aboard the plane, joining the weaponeer and the flight engineer. Painted on the nose of the B29 was the name of the pilot’s mother, Enola Gay.

2:27 a.m. Front engine No. 3, then No. 4, then No. 1, then No. 2.

“Okay to taxi,” the tower said.

2:35 a.m. In position to taxi.

Clear to take off.

A final check.

Take-off weight: 150,000 lbs., 7000 gal. of fuel, 12 men on board, and a five-ton Thing in the plane’s belly. The Enola Gay was eight tons over its normal weight.

“Let’s go.”

All throttles were pushed forward. Down the 8500 foot runway, the plane went past the ambulances and the fire trucks every fifty feet on each side. At the last minute, the B29 lifted into the air and was off the island and heading north by northwest toward Iwo Jima. It would be over the Japanese homeland 1500 miles away in a little less than six hours.

The tail gunner tested his gun, using 50 of the 1000 rounds he had.

The radar operators studied the radar pictures of Hiroshima.

“Judge going to work.” The weaponeer began to load The Thing. He inserted the gun powder and the detonator. He tightened the breach plate. It took him thirty minutes to complete his task.

The pilot did a check with the two planes following and got a “conditions normal”. So far nothing out of the ordinary. He turned the plane over to his co-pilot and went off to chat with the rest of the crew.

The pilot palavered with his crew for a few minutes, answering any questions they might have, trying to ease any tension there might be. The crew gave him a thumbs up that everything was a-okay. The pilot returned to the cockpit. He took the plane up to 9000 feet for a rendezvous in the pale, pink sky above Iwo Jima. A camera plane and an instrument plane joined up with the Enola Gay.

“Proceeding as planned,” the pilot radioed Iwo Jima downstairs.

“Good luck.”

The three planes formed into a V, the Enola Gay leading the way. Now it was on to what was left of the Japanese Empire.

The ordinance expert armed the charge. He was the last person to touch The Thing. Then he checked the circuits of The Thing on his monitor.

The pilot announced to the crew, “You are carrying the world’s first atomic bomb.”

The Enola Gay climbed to an altitude of 30,800 feet.

“Bomb primary,” came the message from the weather plane ahead. The pilot announced, “It’s Hiroshima.”

All lights on The Thing remained green. It was ready to do its job.

Course change to a heading of 264 degrees.

“Initial Point.”

Hiroshima’s morning sky was bright and clear. Perfect weather.

Below soldiers did their calisthenics.

Below a doctor was administering a shot.

Below a sixteen year old girl drove a tram.

Below two women arrived at the bank where they worked.

The pilot knew the city like the back of his hand from studying maps, photographs and radar pictures. He headed straight to the Aiming Point.

From below: “Top alert.”

“On goggles,” the pilot directed his crew to put on their goggles to shelter their eyes from the blast of The Thing they were about to drop. Only the pilot, the bombardier and the electronic countermeasures man did not slip their eyewear over their eyes. They needed their naked eyes to do their jobs.

Hiroshima in the bombardier’s viewfinder.

The plane began its three-and-a-half minute run.

The pilot: “Stand by.”

Below a nurse sterilized hospital tools.

Below a group of boys played hide-and-go-seek.

Below a woman had breakfast with her two children and her husband. He read the “Chugoku Shimbun” daily newspaper.

One of the women in the bank wiped a desk top. A soldier removed his shirt.

The Aiming Point of the T-shaped Aioi Bridge came into the bombardier’s cross hairs. “I’ve got it.”

Fifteen seconds.

The doctor looked up and saw the Enola Gay. Just one plane. Nothing to worry about.

8:15:17 a.m. Enola Gay’s bay doors opened. The Thing dropped from its restraining hook. Freed of the five tons, the B29 lurched upward. The pilot swung the plane into a 155 degree right turn and a steep power dive. The bay doors shut.

The Thing wobbled, then picked up speed.

Below Field Marshall Hata dressed for a meeting.

Korean Prince RiGu cantered his horse on the Aioi Bridge

Radio Hiroshima broadcast an air raid warning. Thousands of workers stopped what they were doing and hurried toward the “safe areas”.

The Enola Gay now five miles from the Aiming Point and heading out of the city.

Five seconds to go.

At 1890 feet above the city of Hiroshima, the Thing detonated, untold quantities of energy released in a blast. A white light, a flash, a fireball fifty million degrees centigrade at its center. The fireball expanded to 300 meters wide.

There was a new sun in the sky. A sudden and throbbing roar, then total darkness, then red, yellow, orange, green burbled up from the city below, then grayish, brownish, black smoke. Looking down at it all, the tail gunner said that it was “a peep into hell.”

That morning in 1945, the people below in the city were no longer Japanese. They were human beings.

Sources
Books

Hersey, J. (1989). Hiroshima. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Smith, J. M. (2010). Fire in the sky: The story of the atomic bomb. Place of publication not identified: Textstream.

Thomas, G., & Witts, M. M. (1995). Enola Gay – Mission to Hiroshima. Loughborough, England.: White Owl Press.

Films

Hiroshima (BBC History of World War II) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2009). BBC Home Entertainment.

Joffé, R. (Director). (1989). Fat man and little boy [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

Modern Marvels – The Manhattan Project (History Channel) [Motion picture on DVD]. (2005). A&E Home Video.

 

 

Classic Uncle Bardie: Be Careful What You Ask For

Another Halloween repeat performance from 2013. Enjoy. It’s Halloween.

The light from the windows of her hundred-year-old house streamed out onto the lawn late that night in February. The light reflected the shadow of her silhouette behind the curtains of her second story bedroom. She was watching me, I knew, as I stood next to the fence across the street and waited. I had been here every night for one hundred days, in rain, in fog that came up off the nearby sea, and on clear nights. It was the key to the door of her heart.

I wondered if she would ever recognize my love for her. At first, I had sent her notes, then candy, then flowers, first one, then a half dozen, then a dozen. But she ignored them. When we had last spoke at our high school, she had urged, “Please don’t.”

But I loved her too much to give up and I knew she would come to love me. It was fated to be and only a matter of time.

Each night I watched her father arrive from some late night appointment and go into the house. He was always going and coming at night. But why? Why did he do this? After all, he was a successful lawyer who had an office downtown, open for appointments all day long. Why did he need to be out this late every night?

One night her father walked out of the house and headed for his car. I looked at my watch. Eleven o’clock. I decided to follow. I hurried around the corner and jumped into my old beat-up green Buick. I started it, then sat there. Her father backed out of the driveway and headed east.

I pulled in behind him, about twenty car lengths, and tailed him. We drove for thirty minutes or so until we came to an old rundown warehouse. He parked in its parking lot, next to the three or four other cars there. I pulled to a stop a block or so away and watched him enter a side door into the building.

I got out of the car and walked over to the partially lit parking lot. I went around to the side and listened in through a half-broken window. All I could hear was the sound of barking dogs in the distance. I pushed my ear closer to the window. Then I felt it. The cold metal in my back. It was a gun.

“Come with me,” the man behind me demanded and grabbed me by the neck and shoved me forward. Before I could turn around to see who it was, I was forced through the side door and into the warehouse. Before me stood several men.

“I caught this outside,” the voice behind me said.

“Welcome, Mr. Benedaro,” her father greeted me with a smile.

I was pushed toward the group of men and forced to drop onto my knees. I was in the center of a circle of these men.

From behind me, I heard her voice. “Now, Father?” she said.

“Yes, Daughter,” her father said.

I turned to see a large wolf, charging me with its teeth bared.

“What the he…,” I screamed as she bit into my neck.