Near 500 words:Elgar

The farm was dying. Elgar knew it. His wife, Beatrice, knew it. His son, Jock, knew it. The question was what to do with it. After all, it had been his great grandfather’s, his grandfather’s, his father’s. For three generations before him, the farm had prospered. Fed the family. Kept them happy. Now he had failed. But not one of his forebears had had to deal with the droughts of the last several years.

Elgar’s feet were rooted in the soil like a tree. Elgar wrestled with the what-to-dos like Jacob wrestling with the angel long ago. To pull up and seek a new life, Beatrice and Jock knew would kill Elgar.

The farm was dying. God had abandoned this land Elgar loved so much. As the other farmers sold out and moved away, Elgar became lonelier and lonelier. When you’re the last of your kind, it’s hard to avoid the isolation, the alienation.

The tall, thin farmer walked his land one last time. As he did, he came upon his father’s old tractor seat, that “seat of power” where Dad ruled his domain. If his father had taught him anything, it was not to dominate the land. But to be its steward. It was still not too late to return to his father’s ethic.

He reached down and took the seat from the tractor, raised it above his head and began to dance. It wasn’t a rain dance. It wasn’t a folk dance. It was the dance of a man who loved his land.

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Neither snow nor rain nor heat

“But it looks like a storm,” Hank says to his wife.

“You need new clothes,” she says.

“There’s a storm coming.”

“I know how you hate shopping.”

“We can’t go out in that.”

“Let’s see. You need a new blazer, a parka, a sweatshirt, and a sweater. While we’re at it, we might as well get you some pajamas, undershirts, and socks. Some briefs too. And I need shorts. One of my old pair is beginning to look like boxers. I hate that.”

“It’s going to storm.”

“You’re such a wuss. Now get my purse and let’s go.”

Resigned to his fate, Hank gets her purse and follows her out. All the while, he gets in the last word, “But it’s going to storm.”

My Black Thumb

 With Spring coming on, I thought this would be the perfect piece to welcome her.

In the long, long time ago, I thought it would be nice to grow some flowers. So I chucked down to the local nursery and asked what would be a good flower to plant. I was overwhelmed with suggestions from that crew. It was like going out to dinner with a bunch of friends. Eight to be exact and they’re all saying, “You gotta try this. And this. And this.”

I mean the staff at the nursery went on and on about annuals and perennials. They suggested hibiscus, azaleas, roses, zinneas, periwinkles, begonias, rain lilies, magnolias, camelias and  all the kinds of flowers. They just knew they’d spiff up my lawn.

Little did they know that my lawn eats cats and dogs for breakfast. I have seen the neighborhood cat running forty miles an hour just to get away from the darn thing. But I didn’t want to disappoint them. So I didn’t share anything about the villain.

I didn’t plan to plant the flowers anywhere near the lawn. I bought several earth boxes and took some of the flowers with interesting sounding names. Begonia sounded Irish, so I took the potential begonia along with a periwinkle and azaleas. The staff threw in an hibiscus for free and I was a happy camper.

The nursery gave me instructions on how to plant, nurse and grow these little cuties into big adult flowers. The instructions came in a roll as long as a roll of toilet paper. I also bought some accessories like a little shovel to dig a hole in the dirt.

It cost me a big chunk of change but it was worth it. I mean, when I left that place, I was a ready teddy. And I was feeling good about myself. I was ready to beat that global warming single-handed and with one hand tied behind my back.

I got home and set the earth box out on my porch. I put it in a spot my lawn couldn’t see just in case. I got out my tiny shovel and dug holes in the dirt and planted my flowers. I watered them nice-like. Then I went back in my house, got myself a beer and settled into my nice comfy chair. You wouldn’t believe the smile I had on my face. I had done a good day’s work and I couldn’t have been happier.

Well, over the next few weeks, I watered them flowers just like the instructions in Chapter 32 of my roll said. I did not feed them the cheap plant food. I gave them the Good Stuff. Day after day, I did this for about two weeks.

Then one night I woke up to the weirdest sounds. It sounded like the noise was coming from the earth box. I ran out to the flowers and all of them were choking. They were having trouble breathing. Several of them had gone to the Big Flower Box in the Sky. One of the periwinkles choked out, “Water, water, water.”

I ran and filled the watering can. I got to the box. The periwinkle said, “Not tap water. Bottled wa–” and he died. It was the end of my flower-planting career. I asked my neighbor what had happened. He said, “So you thought you had a Green Thumb. Well, guess what. You and I both have black thumbs. The best thing you can do is go down to that nursery. Start dating the first single woman you meet there. Then marry her. That way you’ll have a Green Thumb in the family.”

And that’s exactly what I did. She has a way with flowers. And my lawn loves her too. Her name is Petunia Tree.

A guy doing a videocast

This guy is standing in his living room, talking to the camera for his Youtube video: “I’m here to tell you I can smoke wherever I please. It’s my constitutional right. And it’s in the ten commandments too. Where does the city get off telling me I can’t smoke where I want? Next thing I know they’ll tell me I can’t take a piss. Who do they think they are? I have the right to have lung cancer if I want to. Just like I have the right to have a heart attack. It’s my body, so stay the damn way out of what I do. I ain’t harming nobody. Oh, they say I am harming my body and I will die younger than I should. How do they think I got this far anyway? Smoking and taking a piss. I tell you the next thing I know they’ll be sending their goon squad to take my guns away. Chuck Heston was right. Over my dead body. They didn’t get his guns and they’re not going to get my guns. Could you wait a minute? There’s somebody at the door.”

Fifteen minutes later, the guy comes back to the camera: “I can’t believe it. Two young punks broke into my house and stole my guns. I just called the cops. They’re on their way. And the punks took my cigarettes too.”

Near 500 words: The man in the glass booth

“Say what?” the man in the booth asked the woman. The mic he speaks into muffles his voice and the words come out garbled.

“Say what?” she asked. The words from her end come out garbled. It’s not the best of mics.

Neither heard everything the other said. Isn’t that like life these days? How much do we hear from another person? Before you know it, we’ve jumped to all sorts of conclusions. If this example of two strangers throwing their words at each other proves anything, it proves maybe we are losing our hearing. Unlike our ancestors.

Our ancestors heard everything. They had to. It was pure survival. But isn’t listening required for a good relationship. We get to the point with our partner that we think we already know what they will say. We’ve heard the pattern of the conversation from their end for so long that it has embedded into our brain. No wonder we have gone to texting.

Perhaps this is what hell is like. We approach someone there and we ask a question. Our voice is so muffled that the other person can’t understand us. “Say what?” they say.

“Say what?” we respond, thinking if we could only text. Our fingers are going crazy, making the motions of texting. Maybe. Maybe not.

If we could only listen. If we would only listen. Unfortunately there is so much noise going on in our brain. If haiku has taught me anything, it’s taught me this. How little I listen.

Oh, sure. I hear. My hearing ain’t that bad.

So what happens to the woman and the man in the ticket booth behind the glass at the train station? Or at the gas station?

The woman, instead of getting angry, stops and thinks, then she slows down her words and gives them voice. She smiles and says, “When’s the next drawing?”

The man behind the glass gets it. “At eleven tonight.”

She slips him a five-dollar bill. “One quick pick.”

Finally, he understands. The two of them have adjusted the tone of their voices to the mic and to the listener. He prints her a ticket and slides it through the window with her change.

She smiles, turns and walks away, putting the ticket to her dreams into her pocket.

A man, in his thirties, comes to the booth, asks when the next drawing will be.

“Say what?” the man behind the glass asks.

Thirty shakes his head and walks off. He’ll go elsewhere, perhaps to one of those vending machines for lottery tickets.