Near 500 words: Chair sitting

I wasn’t always a chair sitter. Then late one night, I saw a master of the chair, performing his art in an episode of “All in the Family.” Saint Archie of Bunker sat down on his throne and revealed the secret to the truly blessed life. There was no problem that could not be solved, no challenge that couldn’t be met, no secret that could not revealed. When he sat on that chair, he was the all-wise one.

Once I fell under Saint Archie’s spell, I took the road not taken so much and have been thankful to the Blessed Archie since. Under his guidance, I learned the art of contemplation. Navel gazing, if you will. I learned to stare blankly into space with nary a thing on my mind.

I learned to pontificate as well as the speakers in Hyde Park. On any number of subjects I know absolutely nothing about. Archie taught me the art of laziness. If a job needs doing, there’s always an Edith to do it.

After months of practice, there was only one thing left to do. Saint Archie had his special chair. I needed mine. I spent many an afternoon, wandering the showrooms of God’s green earth. But no chair fit my bottom’s criteria. Just as I was about to give up I met her.

I remember the moment like it was just yesterday. I gazed across the Ikea showroom. She was a wooden framed, canvas covered goddess of a chair.  She saw me. It was love at first sight. I introduced myself. She told me her name was Chaise. I immediately proposed and she accepted. The cashier performed the nuptials. Then she pronounced us man and chair with the word, “Sold.”

Our honeymoon was a long one. I kept asking myself how had I gone so long without such a creature. She was a perfect fit for my bottom. Her embraces were ecstasy.

Whole days went by without my moving. Once I took my respite in her arms it was like the poet Omar Khayyam said. “A can of beer, a remote control, and thou.” We learned the nooks and crannies of each other like we’d been married for decades. I knew her mood swings. She knew where to scratch my back when an if I had an itch.

Then it happened. Like Sheldon Cooper says, there is a Special Place for each of our bottoms. And for us alone. One night some friends came over. And lo and behold, one of those former friends rested his bottom on my beloved. With tears pouring down my face, I screamed, “Sitter, beware.”

But it was too late. My beloved had embraced his bottom as she had embraced mine. As the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a chair sitter scorned.”

When they left, I sat down in my beloved’s arms. The sound was different. In the past, there had always been an ahhhh from Chaise. Now there was a burp. A burp! I ask you, “Have you ever heard such a thing?” The fit was too loose for my bottom. And she retained his smell. The smell of dirty socks.

Needless to say I did not get a divorce and take her down to the local Goodwill. No. I gave her what she truly deserved. Forty whacks with an ax.

In the months that followed, I found myself alone. Distraught. Nothing could satisfy my depression. I watched “All in the Family” episodes for weeks on end, hoping for inspiration. I prayed to Saint Archie. Nothing would do. And then I was at Ikea.

Needless to say, I have lived happily ever after since. And perhaps when I die, I will be buried sitting up in Silla’s lap.

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Near 500 words: Ancestors

The woman in the door of the wooden hut stood before Rufus. Her dark hair and her brown eyes were full of life though her life was hard.

Her focus reminded Rufus of the last time he saw his father. It was late at night and the old man sat at his desk, studying a photograph of his father who had been gone some thirty years. There was a light in the old man’s eyes. It wasn’t the light from the table lamp. It was another kind of light. It was the light of memory.

Or was it more? Was it the light of someone who has experienced some piece of the divine in his life? Rufus’ father never spoke of his father.

“Can I have some water?” Rufus asked the woman in the doorway.

The woman smiled. Instead of water, she invited him inside her one-room house. A house that was spotlessly clean. In the corner was an altar to some god or other. He didn’t ask since he knew it would be as rude as asking his father about his grandfather. She brought him a cup of tea and offered him a seat on one of the three wooden chairs.

Rufus took out his camera and pointed to it. “Can I take your photograph?”

The woman blushed, then shook her head yes.

Rufus pointed and snapped several pictures. Then he finished his tea. He thanked her for her hospitality.

It was a brief encounter but not as brief as the night he saw his father studying the photograph of his father.

As he walked up the path away from the woman’s house, he missed his father and his grandfather. Perhaps in another life. Perhaps.

Near 500 Words: Critical analysis

Ellis poured himself a glass of wine and sat down with his wife. She was crocheting.

“I finished it,” Ellis said.

“You did?” There was excitement in Carol’s voice.

“I did,” he affirmed. “A year I’ve been working on it, and it’s finally finished.” He breathed a sigh of achievement.

Carol studied where her hook needed to go. “Why did it take so long?”

“I just couldn’t get those final touches in. Wasn’t sure if I should or if I shouldn’t.”

“So when do I get to see the painting?”

“You can see it now if you’d like.”

“I’d like. But I just have to finish this little piece.” Carol returned her attention to her work. She felt a tug on the yarn. She looked down and saw the cat. “Whiskers. No.”

Whiskers paid her no-nevermind. He’d started his job, He wasn’t going to quit.

Carol threw a ball at the cat. “Chase that.”

The cat ignored her. He was ready to play, and he needed a playmate. He’d chosen Carol.

Carol turned to her husband, joyfully sipping his wine, satisfaction on his face. “Can you do something about that cat?” Carol’s voice was filled with frustration. “If you want me to look at your painting, you’d better.”

Ellis sighed. “Oh, all right. But hurry. I want you to see the painting.”

Ellis reached down and unraveled Whiskers from the yarn. He lifted the cat and carried him into the kitchen. “Want a snack, big fellow?”

“Don’t you feed that cat?” Carol called from the other room. ‘He’s getting fat.”

“Well, what do I do with him?”

“Play with him. He wants some attention.”

Carol was getting frustrated with the cat, with her husband, with the blanket. The blanket was not going well. And it was for her dad’s birthday three days hence. She laid it out on the couch and took a good look at it. “Darn. That’s not the color.” She headed into the bedroom to look through her yarn. There, she found it. Just the right color. Then she was back in the living room, comparing the yarn with the blanket.

Ellis stuck his head through the kitchen door. “You about ready to go see the painting?”

“Okay,” she said, looking up at her husband.

She lifted the blanket up for Ellis to see. “What do you think?”

Ellis studied the blanket with his painter’s eyes. Finally, he gave Carol his verdict. “It looks finished to me.”

“What do you know?” Carol said and folded the blanket and skulked off to the closet with it. Under her breath, she whispered, “It’s never going to be finished in time.”

Off the two went to Ellis’ studio. Ellis turned on the light. In the middle of the room was the canvas. A woman sat, crocheting. A man sat beside her with a glass of wine. In front of them was a table with a flowery table cloth. There was an empty chair in the foreground.

“What do you think?” he asked his wife as she stared at the painting.

“It’s beautiful. What’s it called?”

“Marriage.”

Carol leaned over and kissed her husband. Then she said, “It’s wonderful. I love it.”

Ellis wrapped his arms around his wife and embraced her. Looking over her shoulder, he saw something. Something was missing. On the canvas. He let go of his wife.

“No,” he screamed.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, panic in her voice.

“I should have waited.”

“Waited?’

“Yes.”

“But you’ve done it. It’s your masterpiece. I am so glad you showed me.”

“But it’s not finished.”

Near 500 Words: Treat Yourself to a Year of Wonder in 2019

Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day By Day by Clemency Burton-Hill Published by Harper-Collins 2018

I came to “classical” music late. It was the early 1980s and I was dissatisfied with much of the music I was hearing. I’d loved rock ‘n’ roll and I’d loved folk music. There wasn’t much coming round the bend that I cared for.

In the past, I had avoided “classical” music the way I avoided Shakespeare. Like the plague. The fans of “classical” music drove me away by their devotion to this artist or that artist playing this composer or that composer. So-and-so had mastered Chopin but Such-and-such couldn’t play Shostakovich worth a hill of dirt. Only they wouldn’t say, “Hill of dirt.” What did I know about “classical” music other than I had heard it as the soundtrack of cartoons I grew up with?

Then I found myself being drawn to the Philips series “Set Your Life to Music” and CDs like “Bach for Breakfast,” “Baroque at Bathtime” and “Beethoven for Book Lovers.” They seemed to be saying, “Try this. It won’t hurt.” It was a way into the music without being scared off. The more of the CDs I listened to the more I liked the music. I ended up purchasing something like ten CDs from the series. This led me to a series of Adagio CDs put out by Decca that included “Baroque Adagios,” “Romantic Adagios,” and “Mozart’s Adagios”

During this time, I also saw Milos Forman’s film of “Amadeus.” Though it’s a fictional take on the life of Mozart, it humanizes the great man and took him out of the clouds and brought him down to earth where the rest of us mortals live. The best part of the movie was the soundtrack. The music was intertwined into the film to make the music accessible. Then I found a book that was helpful. The Vintage Guide to Classical Music: An Indispensable Guide for Understanding and Enjoying Classical Music by Jan Swafford was an excellent field guide.

This journey led me to find wonderful musicians, playing some of the most beautiful music ever produced by mortals: Joshua Bell, Carol Rosenberger and Barbara Bonney’s performance of Schubert’s Lieder. When John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls” honoring the 9/11 victims was released, I purchased it and was deeply moved by Adams’ tribute.

Recently I was in Barnes and Noble and rummaging among the books on music when my eyes stumbled upon Year of Wonder by the musician, columnist and novelist Clemency Burton-Hill. Each day of the year she gives a suggested composition. The suggestions range from the earliest compositions to the most recent. Even if you have a background in “classical” music, you might just find some surprises. If you don’t have the background, this is wonderful way to expose yourself to some great music.

If there’s one thing I learned about “classical” music, it is this. “Classical” music is like rock ‘n’ roll or country or rap or jazz or whatever music we listen to. There are those pieces of music I am going to love and there are those I won’t care for.

So dip your toes into the river we call “classical” music and try it. You  might just find some pieces you’ll like, and maybe even love. Make 2019 a year of wonder.

Here’s today’s selection:

 

 

 

 

Near 500 words: Benjamin Franklin Takes On Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was a funny guy. If you’ve read Gulliver’s Travels, you know just how funny he is. Who else would have given us names we can’t pronounce? He could have made it much simpler to call a spade a spade. Or, in his case, a horse. Like Mr. Ed used to sing, “A horse is a horse, of course, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.” Instead he gave us Houyhnhnms.

And that wasn’t the only one that was utterly unpronounceable. There’s Brobdingnag,  Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan. If there’s ever been a word that’s harder to pronounce than Japan, I haven’t found it. And why use Lilliputian when munchkin is a perfectly fine word for short people?

After he published his Gulliver, he couldn’t leave well enough alone. When you’re a satirist, you end up trying to top yourself. Like Mark Twain couldn’t settle for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He had to go and write Pudd’nhead Wilson. Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal.”

You might say the word “modest” was a tongue-in-cheeker. Most of the Irish of his day lived in poverty and suffered from hunger. So Swift suggested the English ought to cook the Irish children and serve them as fricassee or ragout. The English may have found it funny but I don’t think the Irish did. I’m sure the Americans didn’t. For an obvious reason explained below.

Benny Franklin knew satire when he read it. His Poor Richard’s Almanac left Americans laughing all the way to Bunker Hill and back. When Benny read A Modest Proposal, he was livid. Instead of telling Swift to go fly a kite, he sent a letter.

That letter was recently discovered by archaeologists under the toilet of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Swift was the Dean of the Cathedral. For those of you who don’t know what a Dean is, he’s a head guy at an Anglican (Episcopalian) Cathedral.

Experts consider that Swift may have run out of toilet paper and Franklin’s letter was the closest thing at hand. Fortunately, for us, the letter fell through the cracks and left Swift without a thing to wipe his bottom with.

So here’s Benny Franklin’s letter:

“My dear Johnny:

I recently read A Modest Proposal. Needless to say, I was not happy with the text. Not happy at all.

This scheme of yours is totally immodest. What an unsettling proposition. Cooking Irish children in a fricassee or a ragout. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Then blame the suggestion on an American. And in London, of all places.

I ask you what American on God’s green earth would know what a fricassee or a ragout is. I don’t even know what a fricassee or a ragout is. And I’ve been to Boston and New York City and Philadelphia.

No, it sounds like a French suggestion to me. What with all their fancy eating. Any people who will eat snails will eat just about anything. Including the Irish.

Besides we Americans don’t have the time to go fricassee-ing and ragout-ing about. We’re way too busy with witches to hang, tea parties to organize, independence to declare, constitutions to write, cherry trees to chop down, apple trees to plant, slaves to free, destinies to manifest. And we’re still trying to finish off the leftovers from that first Thanksgiving dinner.

So please, pretty please with sugar and cream on it, don’t blame an American. If we’re going anywhere, it won’t be to London. We’ll be going west, thanks to Horace Greeley.

Sincerely,
Benny Franklin, Esq.”