Near 500 words: Happiness, and then some

Clara had such a smile it could wake up the world with its beauty. Especially when she told him, “I love you, Dan.”

Dan had dated a lot of girls. Clara was the first he thought he might want to spend the rest of his life with. Clara and Dan started dating on a blind date. Dan had told his friend, Jill, “Blind dates are the worst.”

Jill insisted.

To show Jill how wrong she was, he gave in. He saw Clara, then his heart went wow. Jill had been right.

Jill had dated a lot of guys. Most of them were duds. She too resisted Jill’s offer of a blind date. Then she saw Dan. The smile appeared on her face.

Dan wasn’t the handsome sort. Kinda skinny with a small nose and the curly hair. He wasn’t what Clara would have thought as Mr. Wonderful.

Clara’s face wasn’t that of a raving beauty. It was kind of plain. But then there were those dimples that came with the smile. And, oh, she warmed Dan’s heart.

That first night they gave each other their life stories and threw in some ancestral heritage to stir the pot. First they did dinner, then walked and walked and walked the city streets, then it started to rain. There under a bridge, Dan kissed Clara and Clara kissed Dan.

Clara was the first to speak. “I never.”

“I never either,” Dan said, just as surprised as Clara. “Could this be?”

“I believe so.”

Of all the nights in his life, this was to be the one Dan remembered the most. The same for Clara.

“What will we tell Jill?” Clara asked, smiling that smile, cradled in Dan’s arms.

Dan’s hand stroked Clara’s hair. “She’ll never let us forget how right she was.”

They laughed. Then they kissed one of those long slow kisses that make time stop. When the kiss was over, Dan asked, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

“Spend it with you,” Clara said.

It wasn’t a big wedding. Quite small with a few friends. Jill got to be the Best Man. That was only right.

Dan and Clara went off on their honeymoon. They went to Spain. As they listened to the gypsies play the flamenco, Dan asked his beloved, “Let’s not go back home?”

“Let’s not.”

Dan wrote an article for National Geographic. Clara drew the pictures. They dropped them into the post and off the package went to the magazine’s offices. A week later, as they left their room in the hotel, a hotel employee hurried up to them. “You have a phone call,” he said.

It was the editor of National Geographic with an offer they could not refuse. She wanted to buy their story, and she wanted more. The magazine would pay them to roam the world, tell their stories, and draw them. It was perfect for Clara and Dan.

Their dream life. They hadn’t talked about it but they thought about it.

Dan called his brother. “Sell the house. Sell everything,” he said.

Then they hit the road. To Toledo, then to Barcelona, then on to Nice. It was in Nice that Clara found out she was pregnant.

“We’ll take a break,” Dan said. “We’ll be Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda.”

“Oh, no. Not those two. We’re not going to drown our joy in booze.”

Then all the happiness came tumbling down on them. Clara had a miscarriage. Clara cried for a week, and so did Dan. Suddenly their smiles disappeared. Finally, Dan asked, “What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to go on,” Clara said, not sure what she meant but knowing that was the only answer there was.

Holding hands, they looked out from the balcony at the sea. They both knew that the paradise was over. It was time to pay the piper. They also knew that, no matter what, they would pay the big fellow together. It did not bring back the smiles but, at least, it gave them hope as they watched the sunrise over the sea.

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An Un-fairy Tale

It was a party, that wedding reception. Half the kingdom showed up to eat, dance and be merry. The couple was extremely popular and well-loved. That was why it was such a surprise when they started in a marital train wreck It had been such a fairy-tale, their romance.

As disappointed as everybody was, they all knew that happily-ever-afters were not to be. Marriage took a lot of work. Charming and Beauty might have been up to the work. They were not committed to it. Sure they liked the glow of it all. They had both gone to see “Romeo and Juliet” a dozen or more times. They had binged on “Outlander” on tv. And they were smitten by “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

The real test was when he farted at an inappropriate moment and when she belched when they were visiting his parents. Most couples let the body functions pass with, “I’ve heard worse” or “I’ve smelled worse.”

The real trouble nobody spoke about was that Beauty wasn’t Cinderella or Snow White. And Charming wasn’t the Woodsman or the Big Bad Wolf.

The parents of the couple suggested counselling. It had helped them through their troubled times. Beauty. But that didn’t help. It made matters worse. Now they spelled out loud the issues. After the third session, the Royal Marriage Counsellor shook his head and gave up.

“He’s been biting the apple with Snow White and she’s had a real howl-in with Big Bad. Let’s face it. It’s a case of ‘the grass is greener on the other side of the fence’. Nothing can save this marriage.”

Now it just so happened that it was that time of year. Early autumn. As usual Merlin was taking his stroll through the kingdom. After the fiasco with King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, he didn’t show his face much anymore. He’d failed Camelot, and that was that. Fortunately he had been taking lessors from Gandalf. Since Gandalf had gotten Aragorn and Eowyn together, he was considered Matchmaker to the Stars.

It was hard to miss the news about Charm and Beauty. There were posters on just about every tree in the forest and photograms all over Instagram of the fights. Merlin saw his chance to get back into everybody’s good graces. If he could fix the couple’s marriage and give the kingdom a happily-ever-after, he would be the superstar he’d always seen himself as.

He pulled out his smartphone and started taking pictures of the unhappiness that had hit the kingdom like the ten plagues of Egypt. Humpty Dumpty’s fall was the first. Then there was Little Red Riding Hood’s granny and the Billy Goat Gruff taking out the Troll. There was the two little pigs’s houses the wolf had blown to smithereens. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Repunzel’s hair all fell out.

Merlin put together his powerpoint presentation of the destruction Charm and Beauty’s marriage was doing to the kingdom. Then he buckled up his bucklet and went up to the Castle. He knocked on the giant wooden door. When the porter asked what he wanted, he answered, “I’m here to see the Prince and  Princess.”

“I’m sorry but no can do. Lady Macbeth went chasing Spot the Dog and fell off the castle wall. And Lord Macbeth’s got Macduff’s sword stuck up his tushy.”

“Not that couple,” Merlin said angrily. “The Prince and the Princess, you goof.”

“Don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m sorry your gps isn’t up to snuff. Their castle is the one on the hill. If you had put The Castle on the Hill into it, it would have taken you to their front door step. But be forewarned. That place has gone to quackers.”

Merlin’s eyes followed the porter’s finger as it showed the way. There must have been more steps to the Castle on the Hill than there was to the top of the Great Pyramid. For a second the old wizard choked. This was not going to be easy. Then he buckled himself up for the climb and determined that a wizard’s got to do what a wizard’s got to do. If it was easy, everybody would have the job.

It was a long, arduous climb that took a fortnight. For you readers who don’t know what a fortnight is, it’s two weeks.

He came to the door of the Castle on the Hill. Before knocking, he sat down on the stone walkway and had himself a rest. He dumped the pebbles out of his shoes and saw the holes in their soles. If he pulled off his goal, there would be a reward of new shoes.

Then he stood up straight and rang the giant bell.

“Who’s there?” the guard at his post asked from the other side of the door.

“It’s Merlin, the Magician. Let me in.”

“State your business.”

“Marriage counselling.”

From the other side of the door, there were guffaws galore. Finally, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Merlin was not used to being challenged when he was determined to do a thing. So he said, “Let me in or I will huff and puff and blow your house down.”

More laughter. Then, “We’ve heard that before. You gotta do better than that.”

Merlin sunk his head into his hands and said mostly to himself, “Oh, what to do. What to do.”

At that, his staff whispered in his ear. He called out the offer the staff offered, “A flagon of ale for every member of the staff.”

From the other side of the door, “What’s a flagon?”

“It’s a lot. Now let me in.”

“Well, if you insist, but we want the good stuff.”

The door creaked open. Merlin strode in, lifted his wand, and said loudly, “Let the booze flow.”

The Castle-on-the-Hill tour guide walked out of his cottage. “May I help you, sir.”

“The couple?” Merlin said huffing and puffing, not from exhaustion, but from frustration. “Where’s Prince and Princess?”

The tour guide pointed at the two lights at opposite ends of the castle. “There.”

At that, Merlin did what any self-respecting wizard would do. He gathered himself up, then he thought, “Geez, more stairs.” That was followed by, “I guess a wizard got to do what a wizard’s got to do.” And up the stairs he went.

First he showed his powerpoint to Beauty, then he went down to the other end of the Castle and showed Charm. They both laughed him out of their rooms.

This was Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot all over again. What to do? What to do?

Merlin, never being a quitter, was not about to take this lying down. There was only one magic spell left in his ye-olde-spellbag. So he pulled it out and said the magic words, “Jimmy Stewart.” Then he grabbed up the royal couple as fast as you can say, “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle” and took them down to the Royal Movie Theater and showed them “It’s a wonderful life”. By the end of the movie, Charm and Beauty were in each other’s arms. bawling their eyes out. Jimmy Stewart had done what Jimmy Stewart always did. He did that old Jimmy Stewart magic.

From that moment on, there was no more complaining about the farting or the belching. Twenty years and three kids later, they found those activities endearing in each other. And there was rejoicing and happily-ever-after-ing throughout the land. On top of that, Merlin’s Matchmaking Business went into franchising. Now the kingdom has one on every corner.

The business has prospered so much so that Merlin is taking it public next week. You can buy shares under the ticker name of MMBz.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: We are all a garden

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 is the movie, “This Beautiful Fantastic” (2017):

I had seen the trailer for this movie some time ago. Can’t remember when. I wasn’t sure I would like this one. But I was having a downer of an evening. It was a little over a week after Hurricane Harvey. And there was Irma barreling toward Florida. So I took a chance with the hope that this one would pull me out of my low spirits.

I gotta say it did. Did so much I wanted to turn around and watch it a second time.

Director Simon Aboud has created a film about community and friendship and how much they can change a person. Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay) isn’t an outgoing sort of person. She has a new flat and a new job. And she is terribly terribly organized. There isn’t anything out of kilter in her new flat. The can goods are in their proper place, very much like “a food prison”. Her clothes hang just so in the closet. Her meal is laid out on her plate. And her new job is working in a library,of course.

Unfortunately, at least for a terribly organized person, she keeps arriving at her job late. It isn’t her fault. Her neighbor, Alfie Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson), is a crocketdy old man, and he keeps yelling that it is her responsibility to take care of the space behind her flat. After all, he is her neighbor and he likes gardens. The space is a mess.

Alfie is such a complainer he loses his cook, Vernon (Andrew Scott). Even though she can’t pay him, he goes to work for Bella just to spite Alfie.

In the meantime, Bella meets an inventor, Billy (Jeremy Irvine), in the library. Seeing each other day after day at the library, they begin a friendship. It helps that her boss, Bramble (Anna Chancelor), keeps shushing Billy and bringing out Bella’s sympathy for him.

Alfie reports Bella to the landlord. The landlord insists she has one month to change the mess outside her house into a lovely garden. Bella doesn’t even like plants, and here she has to create a garden. It’s not going to be easy. Especially with Alfie brow beating her over her inability to make a garden.

But hearts do change. Especially in fairy tales. Whether there will be a happily ever after in this one is anybody’s guess. Just as Bella has her garden going, a storm comes in and blows everything every whichaway. Just as Bella is falling for the inventor, she sees him with another woman. Just as she masters her job at the library, she is fired for being late.

And there is a flying mechanical bird named Luna. She may just save Bella’s day.

This is Simon About’s second film. Let’s hope he gives us many more.

The Uglies

Let’s face it. We all have a bit of the Uglies in us. When I say Uglies, I mean Ug-a-lug-lies.

From time to time, those Uglies have to burst loose. There’s no two ways about it. Oh, sure. Later we’ll do a Flip Wilson and say, “The devil made me do it.” That’s ‘cause we’re embarrassed we let our dumbass show.

When we see others do the Uglies, we don’t let them off the hook that easy. We want them to get their just desserts. Either that or some of that instant karma John Lennon sang about.

This goes even more so for fairy tales. We want the Wicked Witch of the West to melt. We want the mirror to shatter on the Wicked Queen. She wanted Mr. Mirror to give her the fake news that she was the fairest in the land. We want He-who-must-not-be-named to have his name stamped on his rear-end. And not just stamped. Branded. Ouch! That’s got to hurt.

Nowhere along the way do we consider that they may not be villains and that they might have a bad case of the Uglies themselves. If we give them a chance, those Uglies might wear off and these folks might turn out to be decent human beings. Who is to say that Harry Potter didn’t have a very good press agent. Once Voldemort was branded with that He-who-must-not-named label, there was no getting off scot free for him.

It may be that Humpty Dumpty woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or that the king had the Uglies and pushed Humpty off the wall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put the Dump back into Humpty Dumpty. At least, that’s what the king told the press. And we know the reason the Chicken crossed the road. She was run out of Dodge with her own set of Uglies.

Consider the Cinderella story. We want Cinderella’s wicked step mom to lose. And not just loose, but loose big time. After all, her daughters are real works of art. They’re haughty and persnickety. In fact, that’s their names, Haughty and Persnickety. And Step Mom is not interested in love. She’s only interested in the cash. Bet you’d kick the romantic out of your head if you were as poor as a dormouse and had four mouths to feed.

Let’s just consider Step Mom’s side of things. She marries a guy because he’s got a steady job. Her first husband ran off with the Spoon. He left her with two daughters who were always crying, “Feed me.” She met Cyndi’s dad at the local Parents Without Partners. They hit it off. Before you can say Abracadabra, they did a Vegas and wallah! Problem solved. Then Dad had to go and get himself hit by a truck. Of course, he didn’t have any life insurance. The only income Step Mom had coming in was the alimony payments from her first husband.

Since the girls were about to turn eighteen, Step Mom had to find a new source of income. She got herself a real estate agent certification and started flipping houses. Six months later, the floor fell out of the housing market. About that time, both of her daughters needed glasses.

On top of everything else, Cyndi was a handful with her “just wait till I tell my uncle” attitude. What was a mother to do? This was reason enough for Step Mom to let her Uglies burst lose. There was a ball and she was darned sure that one of her daughters was going to hook up with the prince. Come hell or highwater. And under no condition was she going to allow Cyndi to take their shine away.

For every nickel with a heads, there’s a tails to be considered. After all, it was a rich man who said, “Money can’t buy happiness.” The same fellow who said, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”

If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it still may not be a duck. It may be an actor who takes his role as a duck seriously. What else can you expect from a method actor? You never know what a person is going through when they are acting out their Uglies.

And, for God’s sake, do not, under any condition, allow your Uglies to burst through the dam. Best thing is to get ready to duck. That guy, who passed you three seconds ago, may have stolen a leprechaun’s pot of gold. The lep is trying to run him down. If you chase him, you may regret it. He could burst your windshield or run you down.

Either that or he has a gub. “A gub?” you ask. “What’s a gub?” That is a whole ‘nother story.

Cause for celebrating

They’re all on their way to work. Some translators. Some teachers. Some work in banks and some don’t. They all have one thing in common. They’re on the way to a job.

They catch the Emerald City Express from the Yellow Brick Road to Wiz Blvd. They all work for the Wizard. They are the happiest of people. Well, most of them are. Some still have a hangover from last night’s partying till all hours.

They partied to celebrate Dorothy’s return to the Emerald City. She was gone for sixteen months. Doesn’t seem like much but Oz had gone to hell in a handbasket since she took off for Kansas. Now she was back, and already she had reasserted her position as the Go-to Kid. She had taken care of the Wicked Witch of the North.

Three months ago, WWN, better known as Hissy Fitt, came down from the North. She had revenge on her mind. She’d made a bid for the Munchkin Sock franchise and lost it to Snow White and the Seven Sneezes.

As she rode her broom into town, she kept saying, “Winter is coming.” Can you imagine? “Winter is coming.” What in the name of the long legged frog was that all about?

Hissy took the Emerald City in three seconds flat. Oztown didn’t have a clue what hit it. It had no defenses to speak of. Before you could say, “Before you could say,” the City was snowed in. The Munchkins were freezing in their little booties. Oz was affright with fright. There was snow everywhere.

At first, there weren’t any complaints. The kids got some time off from school. The workers got to stay home and drink eggnog. A month later and all the workers had used up their vacation and sick leave. The kids were driving their parents nuts because they were downright bored. “Enough of snow ice cream and snowball fights. We want to go back to school and play with our friends,” the kids said in their high-pitched kiddie voices.

And there was no break in the snow. It just kept coming down. The roof of the stadium dome was weighed down with snow. So much so, the roof came crashing down upon Oz’s Green Mealies, the Wiz’s own Quidditch Team. Just when they were about to give up hopeski, Dorothy’s house landed on Hissy’s head and killed her. Only her pointed ears could be seen. And quickly they melted.

At that moment, the snow went away. Suddenly it was springtime in Alaska again. So, as you can see, there was cause for celebrating. For now, they suffer through the hangovers and get back to what they do best. Their jobs.