Near 500 words: The new baby

Olivia’s water broke at the beach. She was sitting on a lawn chair, watching the sea roll in. She was taking in the sea air and listening to the birds call out their enjoyment of the water. Then it happened.

Hubby Stan was out enjoying the water. He loved romping in the water and that was exactly what he was doing. He was a bit of the way off when he looked up at his very pregnant wife. She had stood up and was waving. She was waving as if her life depended on it.

It was time and he knew it. The kid was coming and he had better get going. He put his pedal to the metal. In no time flat (whatever that means), he was on the beach. He reached Olivia and she was laughing, “I’m going to have a baby. I’m going to have a baby.”

Stan grabbed Olivia’s hand. “Are you okay?”

“Course I’m okay. I’m going to have a baby.”

An older woman approached Stan. “What’s going on?” the woman asked.

“I’m going to be a dad,” Stan said, exhilaration in his voice.

He picked up the lawn chair and the bag beside and walked his wife to the car.

The woman followed him, calling out, “He’s going to be a dad.”

By the time the couple reached the car, a crowd had gathered around them. They were applauding. A police car pulled up beside them. The cop rolled down his window.

“Follow me. I’ll give you an escort. What hospital are you going to?”

Stan told the officer. The officer turned on his light and pulled out in front of Stan’s car.

Stan started his engine, put the car in drive and followed. The cop drove fast and so did Stan. When they arrived at the emergency room entrance, Olivia was going into labor and she was going into labor fast.

A man in a white lab coat came out, opened the passenger door and lifted Olivia out.

“I’m going to be a dad,” Stan said to the man.

The police officer pulled up beside Stan’s car. “Everything okay?”

“Absolutely. We got here in time. Come by later and I’ll give you a cigar.”

Hours later, in the comfort of a hospital bed, the baby was born. He came out screaming, letting the world know in no uncertain terms that he was here.

Later Stan took the baby in his arms and looked over at the wife he loved. “What are we going to call him?”

“Remember our first night after our honeymoon?”

“Yes.”

“Remember how much we laughed till we almost popped?” she continued to ask.

“Yes.”

So he was not named Stan Jr. And he wasn’t named after the grandfathers George and Mac or their fathers, Jason and Morgan.

“Let’s call him Laurel ‘N’ Hardy.”

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Near 500 words: Fishing

Once a week, on Sundays, Doc went fishing. It was his retreat. A place where he went to rest up for the coming week and the stubbed toes and the aches and pains of the people in the town.

Beside the river there was one particular tree. It wasn’t a large tree. It was bent just like he was. Under its branches, he sat there for hours, throwing out fishing line after fishing line, not catching anything but enjoying the peace and quiet.

The tree had a gift for listening. Other trees listened but this one listened with an understanding heart. How could he tell? Doc just knew.

Over the years he’d been sitting under that tree. He kept reminding himself to go to the library and look the tree up in an encyclopedia. But this or that or the other got in the way of his remembering to do just that. On his way to the library, Mrs. Rosen might stop him and tell him about her new ache. Or Danny Porter showed him the place he skinned his leg.

By the time he got to his office and dropped off his fishing gear, he’d forgotten the question. And it didn’t come to him until the next time he sat under the tree.

Some might have named the tree. Doc didn’t. Seemed Tree was its name, and Tree was what Doc called it. So he gave up trying to figure out anything about Tree. The solitude with only Tree for a companion was a comfort to him.

Ten years earlier, Doc had lost his wife to cancer. Under Tree, he felt her presence often. He began to suspect Tree was his wife come back to him. So he began to call Tree by his wife’s name, Cassie. After all, Tree was thin and tall like Cassie.

One Sunday, he sat under Cassie’s branches feeling the warmth of her love pouring down on him. The water covered his bare feet, washing away the dirt from his walk and cooling him from the heat of the summer sun.

“You know, Cassie, I used to think I was Huckleberry Finn. When I was a kid.”

A fish jumped in the water downstream a bit.

“All the other boys played baseball. I went fishing.”

A breeze touched his face like a soft kiss from Cassie.

“I never was much for sports.”

A bird, possibly a robin, sang, disturbing the quiet. Doc didn’t mind. The birds kept him company with their songs unlike the noise he heard people play on their radios and their music players.

“You know, Cassie, I’ve about decided that I don’t like people much. I thought I did but they’ve become such trouble. All their aches and pains but not serious.”

Cassie listened and the river listened and the birds listened.

“The serious ones do trouble me. Like Ellen Gable’s cancer.”

The birds stopped their singing.

“She’s in such pain. Such pain.”

Doc pulled in his fishing line. He usually didn’t catch anything. He never went fishing to catch anything. The few times a fish bit his hook he released the fish and returned it to its home with a bon voyage.

Doc choked out his next words. “Like yours, Cassie. Like yours.”

He stood up and threw the line back into the water. It made its splash.

Then Doc cheered up and said, “Henry Stanton’s foot has healed. The poultice you recommended last time I was here did the trick. I would have never thought of that.”

He looked up at the sky and the sun’s colors filled it with a new sunset. He admired it for a few minutes, then drew in his fishing line. He packed up his fishing gear. He leaned over and kissed the bark of the tree.

“Thanks, Cassie,” he said and headed back to town.

Near 500 words: Disagreements

Cameron, 21, stood before the painting and studied it. Finally, he said to Louise, “Raphael or no Raphael, that’s just too baroque for me.”

“You’re such a stick in the mud. You always have been, and you always will be. You probably wouldn’t like Vermeer.” Louise, 23, wore her light blue suit, and nothing could spoil her mood. Especially her brother.

“I love Vermeer. Wonderful light. And that girl with the pearl earring. I would have dated her.”

“Question is would she have dated you.”

“Course she would have. I’m not a bad looking fellow, and I do have my good points.”

“Name one.”

“I can name two. I like Vermeer and I’m your brother.”

“Aren’t you the smarty pants,” Louise said. “Just what is wrong with the Raphael?”

“It says it’s The Triumph of Galatea. Who the heck is Galatea anyway?”

“From some Greek story, I guess.”

“Another thing I don’t like. The women are supposed to be naked. It’s like Raphael has put skin suits on them. Nothing really showing. And all you get of the little guys with their wings is their butts. Geez, I don’t want to see a bunch of guys’ butts. If I did, I could look at mine in the mirror. Oh, I correct myself. There is one guy in the corner. You get to see his stuff.”

“It’s all supposed to be symbolic.”

“Symbolic?” Cameron snickered. “I think I’ve enough of this art for one day. Let’s go see a movie like you promised.”

“All right, but I get to pick the movie.”

“Oh, no. You picked the art. I’m picking the movie.”

They turned and headed for the entrance of the museum. They passed the guard and walked down the stairs to the street below.

“If you pick the movie,” Louise said, “you pay. I paid for the museum.”

“Want to get a dog and a coke?” he said, pointing to a hot dog stand over in the park.

As they hurried across the street, she said, “We’re not going to another one of those shoot ‘em ups you love. I absolutely forbid it.”

“Let’s go see ‘Heat’.”

They arrived at the hot dog stand.

“No. That’s another shoot ‘em up. Absolutely not.”

They took their food from the man and found a park bench. Cameron plopped down on the bench. Louise checked it for anything that would dirty her skirt. Finally, she sat down beside her brother. They both bit into their wieners.

“This is good,” Louise said to Cameron.

“This is good,” Cameron said to Louise.

The two looked out at the park and both smiled.

“This is the life,” Cameron said to his sister.

“This is the life,” Louise agreed. “Mom would be proud.”

“Yes, she would. We do agree on something.”

“But we’re not going to that movie.”

“It’s got De Niro and Pacino and there’s romance in it. I’m sure.”

“Over my dead body,” Louise said.

“That can be arranged. Maybe I’ll get Pacino to do the job.”

Louise laughed. “I’d rather it be De Niro.”

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.

Near 500 words: Strawberries

Gilberte had always wanted to be a painter since childhood. She had given up her dream for love. After two husbands, she said, “To hell with love. I’m going to paint.” So she began.

At first, she wasn’t any good. Her canvases looked like a child’s smattering. Then she moved patiently from watercolor to acrylics to oil, each canvas a little better than the last. Six, then seven, then eight years passed. One of her exes came by and looked at her canvases. After he left, Gilberte said, “To hell with husbands. I’m going to paint.” So she continued.

In the ninth year, she had a burst of creativity. It was the strawberries that did it. She loved the taste of strawberries. She loved the smell of strawberries. She loved the texture of strawberries. She brought home some fresh strawberries from the market and put them in a bowl and out on the table. She went to the kitchen for some fresh milk.

When she came back, the strawberries sat overflowing from the bowl. They were a beautiful sight, the way the sun lit them, their reds such a contrast to the white table cloth.

She drank her milk. Then she went to her studio and brought back a blank canvas and her paints. She sat the canvas on its easel and began the process. First some white on the canvas and then some orange and green at the top, then came the bowl and finally the strawberries. She worked frantically so as not to loose the vision before her.

Again and again she touched her brush to the canvas. Over the next several days, the bowl of strawberries came to life on the canvas. Until finally, “Enough.” Then she signed the canvas, stacked it against the wall and waited.

Saturday her daughter arrived at the front door with her large daughterly smile and her large daughterly kiss. As usual she brought gifts which always made Gilberte think, “Beware Greeks bearing gifts.” The daughter took the fresh vegetables into the kitchen and washed them and put them away as she always did.

“So what have you been working on?” she asked her mother.

Her mother gave her the same answer as always, only this time she had a smile on her face. Her mother was up to something. “Have you been painting?” she asked.

“Maybe.”

Her daughter looked over in the corner and saw the canvas. She went up to it and picked it up and examined it, then she sat it back against the wall. She turned to her mother and said, “Strawberries? You know how I hate strawberries. They always give me a rash.”

When she left, Gilberte said, “Just like her father. Well, to hell with daughters too.”