Near 500 words: TW in the library

When you visit a library, you have the secrets of the universe at your disposal. When you’re a librarian, you are a guardian of those secrets, making sure they are available to everyone. Perhaps that is why TW (aka The Writer) believed there were no librarians in Stalinist Russia. The Great Executioner had murdered them all.

If ever there was a perfect job for a perfect character, reference librarian was the one for TW. Each weekday, at exactly noon o’clock, TW took his place at one of the reference desks in the Great Hall of the Alphonso Wigglesworth Everspacher Academic Library. The Library was better known as AWE Central to the students and faculty of The University.

TW had worked this routine of noon to nine in the p.m. Monday through Friday since the way way back when in the 1980s he’d joined the library staff. He could remember the very first assignment given him that September day. Mrs. Bosworth, director and overlord of the kingdom known as AWE Central, asked him to come to her office after he found his bearings.

“You will convertig our beloved card catalog to a computer database.” Then she assigned him to Mr. Newcombe. Mr. Newcombe was so old that it was suggested he knew Abraham Lincoln personally. That and his whoppers about the beloved President.

TW knocked on Mr. Newcombe’s office. “The director sent me to you. I am here to help convert the card catalog to a computer database.”

“Would you please return to Mrs. Bosworth and ask her this. Do we categorize the cards as title, author or subject?”

Mrs. Bosworth’s answer, “I would think that it would be all three.”

Mr. Newcombe threw another monkey wrench in the assignment. “Won’t work. We already confuse our students and faculty with having three choices. They’ll never figure this one out.”

Mrs. Bosworth was a very patient woman. It was how she had risen far in the campus bureaucracy. “Pick one of the three to come up when a patron does a keyword search.”

Now Mr. Newcombe was having none of that. “What’s a keyword?” he asked his young ward.

Though she had patience galore, there were limits. “My dear young man, you do know what a keyword is, don’t you?”

TW had been enjoying the whole process. It was almost as much fun as it had been watching Luke Skywalker defeat Darth Vader. “Yes, ma’am,” he answered enthusiastically.

“Then you can relay that information to my good friend, Mr. Charles Everett Newcombe.”

Back in the ancient alchemist’s office, TW said, “I am supposed to explain what a keyword is.”

After TW completed his explanation, Mr. Newcombe looked up at him and smiled. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course, I am absolutely sure.”

“Well, I will need references. Perhaps you should write the definition up for me. Yes, I think that would be best. And make it a five-hundred word essay.”

Mr. Newcombe went to leave the library for the day. On his way out of his office, he reminded TW, “I’ll need that first thing in the morning.”

After several weeks of this back and forth, Mrs. Bosworth had had it with Mr. Newcombe.

She stood up from her desk and walked down the long long hall to the other end of the building. She walked into Mr. Newcombe’s office and dropped a memo on his desk. “Mr. Newcombe, it’s time to get started with the card catalog conversion. I’ve put it in writing. Now do it.”

Mr. Newcombe had not been at the university as long as he had without knowing a thing or two about surviving the bureaucracy. He knew where the power lay. He had tenure, and he was not about to be treated like some servile employee.

He reached down and picked up the memo and passed it back to the director. “I’ll need that in triplicate.”


Near 500 words: Introducing The Writer

Let’s just call him The Writer, or TW for short. Over the next way little while, episodes from TW’s life back in the day will appear each Wednesday.

One Saturday afternoon TW was out and about. During his out and about, he stopped in at Costco for a short run inside. When he returned to his car, a group had gathered around it.

“What did I do?” he asked, feeling as if he had done something wrong. Not knowing what it was sent dread through his body.

He approached his Ford. “What’s going on?” he asked the woman at the edge of the group.

“There’s a cat inside the engine.”

The group turned to him as if he were guilty of something. He wasn’t but they sure made him feel that way.

“What am I going to do?” he asked himself. Then he realized they wanted him to pop the hood open. “Of course,” he said, now knowing what to do.

He opened his car door and pulled the lever, releasing the hood.

One of the men, a tall blond fellow in his early twenties, propped the hood up. A teenager twisted his hand inside the engine. Soon he pulled a small gray kitten out. It continued protesting, its squalling heard across the parking.

The teenager placed the gray kitten inside a small box. He handed TW the box.

“She’s claiming you,” the woman said to TW.

“But I don’t need a cat.”

“The question isn’t whether you need a cat. The answer is that she needs you.”

“But I’ve never had a cat. Besides I’ve always wanted a dog.”

The man who had propped the hood open didn’t have any patience with TW. “Well now you have a cat.”

The group dispersed.

TW looked at the box; the squalling cat looked at him. It was a pathetic needy look. There was a tendency in him to take the cat over to the grass on the other side of the parking lot and let her out of her box. But people were watching.

He crawled into his car and sat the box with its occupant on the passenger seat. He started his car and listened to the engine hum to the beat of the cat’s squalling. It was like cat and engine were singing a choral piece in a concert. A concert that had given him a headache.

With one hand on the cat’s head to keep her in the box, the other hand steered the car out of the parking lot and onto the highway.  From time to time he’d look over at the small creature and think, “What kind of mess have I gotten myself into?”

As he closed in toward home, he pulled into a pet store parking lot. He glanced over at the animal and saw how helpless the creature was. It didn’t seem right in the universe’s scheme of things that such a helpless being should be forced to fend for itself. But what did he know about caring for a kitten? Nada. Nothing.

Maybe somebody in the pet store would take the kitten off his hands.

A store clerk greeted him at the door. She saw the box in TW’s hand. “Can I?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said and passed the box over to the clerk. Maybe, just maybe.

She stroked the squalling kitten as she led him around the store. She stopped and picked up some formula and poured it into a bottle. Then she slipped the bottle’s nipple into the kitten’s mouth. The kitten took the nipple, its squalling over. The woman looked up at TW. She had a “can I keep her” look on her face.

“Not on your life,” TW said as he reached over and took the kitten.

When he left the pet store, his wallet was fifty dollars short.

Near 500 words: Parrot Speaks

When Ada and Ty returned from their honeymoon, Ada introduced her new husband to her parrot. He was gray with red trimming.

“His name is Parrot,” she said. “He was my dad’s before he died.”

Ty had always wanted a dog or a cat, but he’d never imagined a bird. Ty, being in love with his new wife, decided a bird might not be a bad thing.

When Ty came home from his jewelry business the next night, he noticed Parrot in his cage over in the corner. The bird never tweeted or sang or talked. Not one word out of him. He just sat in that cage, watching. Ty wasn’t sure he liked it, but he didn’t want to say anything. Ada loved the bird, almost giving Parrot as much attention as she gave Ty.

Then late one night Ty woke up to a sound coming from the living room. He pulled himself out of bed and slipped into the living room. Across the room, Parrot muttered, “Got to have dinner ready for Ty. Have to contact Sara. Make an appointment for the hairdresser.”

Ty slipped back into bed beside Ada.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

“Yeah. It’s the bird. Sounds like he’s repeating something you said. First time I’ve heard a peep from him.”

“Oh, that’s normal. He talks in his sleep.”

Ty laughed. “What? He can’t talk when he’s awake. When he’s asleep–”

“That’s about it. Talks his head off when he’s sleeping.”

Over the next few weeks, Parrot talked every night. Things Ada said. Things Ty said. Things friends said when they came over.

One Saturday night Bob and Helen Hardy, two friends of Ty’s, were over for penny ante poker.  After the couple left, Ada went off to bed. Ty wanted to finish a book he was reading. Dozing off, he was wakened by Parrot.

“Oh, Bob,” the bird said. “Not here. We’ll get caught. Come over Tuesday night. Ty will be late.”

“What?” Ty said. Was that what they were doing when Bob was helping Ada in the kitchen?

The bird repeated himself and added, “Now stop that.”

The next morning Ty didn’t say anything. Maybe he had imagined the whole thing or maybe Parrot was dreaming. He let the matter go. After all, Ada was as affectionate as a wife could be and Bob was his best friend.

The Sunday night and the Monday night bird talk was the usual. Meetings, friends, gossip.

It was late when Ty got home Tuesday. Ada was already in bed. Parrot dozed in his cage. Then the bird started, “Oh, Bob, that feels so good. Baby, you’re so good. Ty has never done anything like that to me.”

Ty’s body filled with anger. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He  went into the hall closet and pulled out a .45, then he stormed out the front door.

It was four o’clock in the morning when the detective rang the doorbell. It didn’t stop ringing until Ada pulled herself out of bed, wrapped a robe around her body and opened the door. “What do you want?” she asked, still half asleep.

“Ma’am, we have some news. About one this morning your husband shot and killed Bob Hardy. Before he died, Mr. Hardy managed to get off a shot. The shot was fatal.”

“Oh, my God,” Ada screamed. “Oh, my God.”

A female officer stepped past the detective. For the next while, she managed to calm Ada down.

Finally Ada said, “I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right.”

“Are you sure? I can stay if you need me to. Or do you want me to call a friend?.”

“No-no-no,” Ada assured her.

The officer left. Ada closed the door after her and looked over at Parrot. Wide awake, Parrot said, “Another one bites the dust.” Then he winked.

Ada asked, “When do you think we can sell the business?” Parrot stayed quiet.

Ada switched off the lights and went back to the bedroom. From her bed, she heard, “Three husbands down, but I’m not counting.”

Near 500 words: Lawn-othology

Verily I say unto you. It is written in the Holy Writ of Lawn Care.

In the beginning, God created The Lawn. And it wasn’t just any lawn. It was The Lawn. And He separated it from the Non-Lawn. And that was the First Day.

On the Second Day, God created Lawn Care and He sowed The Lawn with seeds. Was it crab grass or St. Augustine grass or Kentucky blue grass? Could it have been Bermuda or Zoysia? Then again it might have been Fine or Tall Fescue. I’m voting for St. Augustine. Nobody knows for sure but we do know that–

On the Third Day, God fertilized that Lawn. And He fertilized with Grade-A cow manure. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been any reason for cows. This was way before the Hindus worshipped the Cow and definitely before those Got Milk commercials.

On the Fourth Day, God watered The Lawn. With rain, no less. In fact, it rained and rained so much and so hard that Noah’s flood was a stream of a flood compared to the Fourth Day’s rain.

On the Fifth Day, God kicked back to admire His work. But there is no rest for the weary. He gandered across that First Lawn and caught sight of a wee itty bitty weed goofing up His work of perfection. So God had a Himself a big breakfast and went off and did some first class weeding.

On the Sixth Day, God realized that The Lawn had gotten out of hand. God being God, He was a First Class Problem Solver. He made Himself a Man to keep up with all the seeding and fertilizing and watering and weeding.

So on the Seventh Day, God looked down from His Throne and saw that His Work was done and He could rest. For there was Man, and there was a lawn that needed mowing.

And to make sure that things were A-okay, it is also written in the Holy Writ, God’s Ten Tips For A Happy Lawn:
Thou shalt mow thy lawn.
Thou shalt mow thy lawn often. So thy neighbors won’t complain.
Thou shalt keep up with the Joneses and cut thy lawn just right.
Thou shalt not envy thy neighbor’s lawn mower.
Thou shalt not let thy neighbor’s dog poop, or thine for that matter, on thy lawn.
Thou shalt not let the weeds choke thy grass.
Thou shalt win blue ribbons for the best lawn in thy town.
Thou shalt not curse thy lawn.
Thou shalt remember that thy lawn has feelings.
So thou shalt give thy lawn its own Facebook page.

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.