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.”

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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.

Denise

Denise had a cousin who was nothing if not a dreamer. Denise’s cousin died of a broken heart.

Denise decided that was not for her. She had big dreams. But nobody in the family believed her. Not her brother, not her sister. They went their separate ways, found spouses, settled down. Each had a son and a daughter. Her parents liked their children’s spouses. And when they had kids, they made her mom and dad so happy. They now had grand children to spoil.

Denise’s mother kept asking, “When are you going to get a husband and have kids. All those guys you hang out with are gay. They are not husband material. Find a guy. You’ll be a happy Mr. and Mrs.” Her dad said nothing. He wasn’t a talker.

Now Denise liked her sister-in-law well enough. They went shopping and laughed and gossiped the way women do. Her brother-in-law, Marvin, only talked politics. The president this. The president that. And he was loud about it. “Oh, that’s just Marvin,” her sister excused her husband. “He’s got a good heart and he cares about the world.”

Right, Denise thought.

The times she saw her brother and his wife became fewer and fewer. They seemed to drift away from the family. Denise thought it was because of Marvin. He was a hater. Little did she know that her brother’s father-in-law had cancer. Her brother and his wife were helping her mother.

Denise always liked her nieces and her nephews. They seemed like good eggs. Her brother’s daughter especially. She had big dreams like Denise. That was when Denise decided to be a role model and really pursue her dreams. She had talent. She knew she did.

So she was going to New York and become a Broadway set designer. It had been something she wanted since she could remember. When she was seven or eight, she watched a tv show and she wasn’t at all interested in the actors. She wondered how the sets were made.

Oh, sure she liked boys but they were never as handy dandy with a hammer as she was. She could drive a nail into a board, and she could drive it straight. When she went into high school, she joined the drama club. Her drama teacher was sure she had the goods to be a set designer par excellence.

After high school, she let go of her dream. Her mother convinced her that life was too scary. She had to make a living, everybody told her. So she went off to nursing school and became a nurse. It was the easy way out. Dreams were risky, and they were scary. The closest she came to Broadway was the Community Theater.

Now she was in her early thirties. She finally had her education loans paid off. It had been a hard scrimp. She saved and lived with her parents to do it.

Seeing her niece one day made up Denise’s mind. It was now or never. She decided it was time to grow up and prove she had the goods. Be the woman she was meant to be.

On her last night at home, she and her mother had a fight. The next morning her mother didn’t come down to wish her good luck. But her father gave her a ride. In the car, her handed her $1000. “Just in case,” he said.

She wanted to cry but she didn’t. She pushed back her tears.

“Call me at the office if you need help,” her father said. At one time, he’d had dreams. He had not had the courage to pursue them. So he knew what his daughter was doing and how hard it was. But it was the right thing to do.

They pulled up at the bus station and went inside. Her dad bought the ticket. It was a round trip ticket just in case. Denise refused it. So her dad paid for a one-way ride to the big city. Then they hugged.

He left her sitting on a bench waiting for the bus.

“Man, I can do it,” she told herself, caught the bus and left town. As she rode the bus, she thought about all the stages of her life. That was then. Now she had the future ahead of her. She was thirty-two and just starting. And she realized that it is never too late to pursue her dreams.

haiku for the day: stories

Every car has a story. Or maybe many stories. There’s the story of the car itself. How the car came to be in the possession of the driver. Then there’s the story of the driver and what the heck are they doing next to you in traffic. If there’s passengers, there are more stories.

Perhaps the driver turns to the passenger next to him and says, “So, you’re not going to marry me?” She might say, “You bet your sweet booty I won’t marry you.” “Then why are we still dating?” “I thought you might win the lottery.” The car is thinking, “Ha. Him win the lottery. He’s got worse luck than Louis XVI.” In case, you didn’t know. Louis XVI was Marie Antoinette’s cake-eating husband.

man in the next car
stopped at an intersection
it’s his turn to go

The Woman in the Park

From her bench in the park, the woman looked into the camera. It was not a stare, just a look. History stamped her face with all its sorrows and its joys.

Her hair now turned grey and thinned was once a full and a solid auburn. In those days, it hung down to her waist. Her forehead wrinkled, her skin now tough from all those days she spent in the sun. Her temple carried a large splotch of yellow. Her eyelashes had thinned like her hair. Only her left ear heard the sounds of the world around her. Both her eyes were a deep blue and she was blind in the right one.

A mole rested just above her lips. Her nose slightly bent from a break in her youth. Her left nostril was slightly bigger than her right one. Her chin was small but so was her mouth. She reached up and stroked her jaw as if she were remembering some long-ago boyfriend who kissed her cheek, then that small Southern mouth. She had been loved once. And that was all that matter to her. Her name was Sara and she had once been happy.

She smiled at the photographer. He snapped her picture, thanked her and walked away. They were two strangers who had encountered each on a Saturday afternoon in the park.

He went off to photograph others. Sometime later he decided he wanted to tell her something. Sara was gone from the bench.

The next morning Sara’s daughter, Margaret, found her mother dead in her bed, a peace on her face, a smile on her lips. That last photograph had been the gravy on the mashed potatoes. Somewhere someone would see the picture, maybe hundreds of someones, and they would love that face as the photographer had.