Near 500 words: The refugee

The photographer spotted the woman, waiting for a bus. When asked who she was, Iriana said to the photographer, “I am a refugee, a woman with no country. All I own is the clothes on my back and what is in my suitcase.” Her clothes were worn but she wore them with dignity.

The photographer asked, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“A cup of tea would be nice.”

Iriana and the photographer went to a little café cradled along the street with tables on the outside. It was decorated with colorful umbrellas to protect from the sun.

They ordered their tea.

“How long has it been since you started being on the run?”

“It’s been years. I keep hoping things will change.”

The waiter brought their tea with some pastry. The café was famous for its pastry.

Iriana took a sip of her tea and a bite of the pastry. She enjoyed the taste. “Ummm, this is good. It never changes. Every time I find a place, there is a revolution. The new guy is just as bad as the last.” Then she began to cry. “My father and brother are in prison. They opposed the last man in charge. Now the new man in charge keeps them there.” Then she spat on the sidewalk and said something in her native tongue. She looked up from the sidewalk. There was anger in her eyes.

“Is there nothing to be done?”

She raised her shoulders and stiffened herself with dignity. She was not about to let anyone else see her weak. She had to be strong for her father and her brother.

“Nothing. They are not important names for the world to care about. For all I know, they could be dead. They are probably dead.”

“Well, maybe I can help.”

“How can you help?”

“I could make their name known. That might pressure the government to release them.”

“Please don’t. That would only give them a reason to execute them.”

The photographer understood. He had heard the same story over and over again. Nothing would help the people he called The Doomed.

“I have a proposition,” he offered.

Iriana was taken aback. “I will not sleep with you. Not for anything. I am a good Christian.”

“No, no, no. Not that kind of proposition. I would like to offer you a job. I would like to ask you to be my assistant.”

Iriana was stunned that someone was offering her such kindness. And a stranger too.

“Then you would no longer be a refugee. Your home would be wherever we went. And perhaps eventually we can work it where your father and your brother are released.”

“You would do that for me?”

“Why wouldn’t I do it for you?”

“I’ve been looking for someone I could depend on for a long time. I think you are the one I’ve been searching for.”

She rose out of the chair and came over and gave the large man a hug. She was crying.

“Please don’t cry.”

“But you’re my angel.”

“One thing is for sure. I am no angel.’

They finished their tea and pastry.

“Let’s go,” he said. “We have work to do.”


Near 500 words: The Sixties

The Sixties are a long time gone but lately I have been remembering. During the 1960s, it seemed like everywhere you turned, there were larger-than-life personalities. Not celebrities but people who moved mountains. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.

Every night we turned on the TV and there was Uncle Walter and Johnny Carson to guide us. Carol Burnett made us laugh our booties off. Alan Shepard and John Glenn flew into the outer reaches of space. John Kennedy inspired us to do better for our country and the First Lady showed us style. Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, Billy Graham and the Maharishi quenched our spiritual thirst. Even in the Soviet Union, there was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

No matter what your political persuasion, there was someone for everyone. Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy for the liberals, Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley for the conservatives. And Che Guevara for the radicals.

Ralph Nader, Betty Friedan and Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez dreamed big dreams and shared them with the world. The times were changing. Utopia was just around the corner.

We landed a man on the moon and celebrated our freedom at Woodstock. Then the party came tumbling down with a thud at Altamonte.

By the end of the decade, our innocence was buried in the harsh reality that utopias always end in dystopia. Captain America was shot off his mototcycle. The Beatles broke up and Sgt Peppers disbanded his band. That day in April,1970, was more than the day the music died. It was the day our hearts were broken. It was the day the earth opened up and swallowed our hope.

All we were left with was Richard Nixon and Vietnam, and Superman was only a comic book and Batman a TV show. All we were left with was Kent State, OPEC, Watergate, stagflation and the Brady Bunch. The Seventies brought us plop back down to earth. It was like we had been dropped on our heads and we had a hangover like all get-out.

Then came Camp David and “the City Upon a Hill” of Ronald Reagan. The Berlin Wall came crashing down. For one brief moment, there was a Middle East Peace Accord. Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. For one brief, shining moment, Camelot was shining again. Only to be brought back to our senses by Y2K and 9/11.

But we can never forget those bonfires of hope shining from the Decade That Was: the Peace Corps and Earth Day, Woodstock and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. And we still dream of a better world. It’s just going to be a long time coming. As Jessie Jackson says, “Keep hope alive.”

Near 500 words: The children

Nicole ran. She remembered the day she ran. It was the Day of the Rainbow. Karl, her brother, ran with her. They left their father’s house and ran from the fear. Their father had big hands and he knew how to use them. Especially on Nicole.

She was eight and Karl was ten and they ran. Their father followed them until he lost their trail. Then they walked. They did not know where they were going. Only they knew they were not going back. They would rather die first. So they walked.

When you are that young, you have no place to go. No refuge. They must have walked for weeks. They slept underneath things and ate the food they found in the trash. By this time, they were dirty and unrecognizable as the children of their father.

Summer was getting close to coming to an end. Autumn was closing in and soon it was to be chilly. And then the snow and winter. They had to find a place of refuge. But where.

They came to a forest. It was a large forest. Perhaps they might find a cave where they could stay to keep warm.

In that cave, the woodsman found them. Asleep. He was a big fella and he was handsome and was gentle. He had lived in the forest all his life long.

“My name is Theodore. My friends call me Theo,” he said when the children woke up. “What are your names?”

The children looked at him with frightened eyes. He could not see those eyes but he knew they must be frightened.

“Do you wish me to leave?” he asked.

“Y-y-yes,” Karl answered.

“I can do that. And you can stay here. I can bring you cakes if you are hungry. My wife makes very good cakes. But what are you going to do when the witch comes?”

“There are no witches,” Karl said.

“Oh, but there are. The one this cave belongs to is disguised as a bear. But she is a witch. And she likes the taste of children with her gingerbread.”

“Wake up, wake up,” Karl shouted to Nicole. “We have to leave. There is a bear coming.”

“Would you like to come home with me? I have food, a bath and a warm bed. And a wife who would love to meet you. If you are not happy there, you can be on your way.”

Karl and Nicole were not sure whether to take the offer. Theo might be just like their father. All smooth, then like a volcano, bursting with anger. Finally, the hunger got the best of them. “We will go with you,” Karl said. “But we will not stay.”

“At least, stay for the winter. Once the spring comes, go your own way.”

They stayed for the winter and then the summer to come and then another winter and another summer. Theo and his wife loved the two children as if they were their own. Finally, one morning Nicole told the story of their father’s anger. It was not a pleasant story to tell by a fire. But she told it anyway. Theo and Margaret, his wife, were happy the children trusted them enough to tell their story. That was the day a giant rainbow appeared through their window.

Near 500 words: Red’s Dilemma

a fairy tale grown up

It was in all the papers.
Red Riding Hood was on trial.
She said it was the Wolf;
she was in denial.
She’d done her granny in.
The evidence told the tale.
Not a pretty one it was.
Folks were not buying her sale.
“The Wolf did it,” she cried out.
But the Wolf had a defence,
“I wasn’t there. I was about.”
He proved that he was a prince.
He removed his wofly mask
and revealed his princely teeth
The crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed
and gave Red a big defeat.
The prosecutor showed
the crowd her very red hood.
“The evidence will prove
Red did her granny in for good.
Is this your hood and cape?”
She said, “‘Tis what I wore
on that very sad day
when Granny was nevermore.”
Then the man placed on the table
a bowl of solution
to prove Red done the deed
of Granny’s execution.
He lowered the red cape
into the gray substance
and stirred it round and round
with a very long lance.
The broth did a great fizz
and spewed out its bubbles.
Soon it was obvious
Red was in very bad trouble.
The prosecutor lifted
the cape from that messy stuff,
unmasking Riding Hood
and calling her bluff.
For the cape was now white
and streaked with a dark blood.
“Too bad,” the man said, “we didn’t
nip your crime in the bud.
Look what you’ve done without
any reason or rhyme.”
Guilt written on her face,
Red confessed her terrible crime.
“But there was a reason.
Of that you must believe.
It was the three bears made
me murder and deceive.”
“Three bears? What are you saying?
Bears are a gentle folk
who keep our forests safe
for the pine and the oak.”
Then Red went on confessing,
“It was out of desperation
they came to me and pleaded,
‘Give us a cessation.
Your granny is driving us
out of our minds with distraction.
We don’t know what we shall do
‘less you take some action.’
Then they told me their tale.
It was really not nice.
They told it to me once,
a second time, and a thrice.
Their house was invaded
while they cared for the forest.
So when they came home
they were hungry for porridge.
But the porridge was eaten,
their chairs were broken,
and a girl in their bed.
And she offered not a token.
It happened not once
but many times over.
Each time they came home
there in bed under a cover
lay my very own Granny
all nice, comfy and warm.
As the years passed the bears by
this became a weekly norm.
Gran got older but this
didn’t end her obsession
to visit the bear’s house
and break their possessions.
They begged and they pleaded,
‘This is our home, don’t you see?
This isn’t a hotel,
nor an Air BnB.’
At first I resisted.
I wouldn’t intervene.
Then I thought, ‘What the heck.
Granny couldn’t be that mean.’
I went to her one morning
with the birds a-chirping.
I found her in her underwear
with a spell of birping.
I birped her till she was
all birped out and done.
Then I poured her some tea.
We played chess just for fun.
When she was in a good mood
I proposed my proposal.
I’d take her to a hotel
and be at her disposal.
She flew off the handle,
‘The bears put you up to this.’
This was not my granny
once gave me a nighty night kiss.
This was a demon who rushed
me with a pick and a knife,
ready to stab me hard
and slice me in half.
We fought for hours it seems.
Then I made one last rush.
When it was over and done,
Granny spoke not a hush.
So you see why I had
to dye my white cape red.
To hide the blood my granny
bled when she was all dead.
Next time you visit the bears
be sure to knock.
So you won’t end up
Like my granny, Goldilocks.”

Near 500 words: Post Number 1000

How about that. This is Post Number 1000 for me. Wow! Maybe I should take a bow or something.

That was a couple of bows but I deserve it, don’t you think?

“Just how are we going to get all those animals on board?” Noah asked God after he checked the roster for the ark. There were so many animals, and the ark was so small.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” the blue sky answered.

“Ah, c’mon. Don’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“You know?”

“Listen, Noah, you have a problem with how things are going, just speak up. I’m a reasonable God.”

Noah held his words in. He knew arguing with God was not going to get him anywhere. “Okay, here I go again. Just how are You going to get all those animals aboard this ark? Sir?”

“Now that’s better,” God said. Then He spoke the magic words, “Abracadabra supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

“Where did You come up with those two words?”

“Walt Disney,” God chuckled. “Man, could that guy make movies.”

“I think you’re thinking of open sesame,” Noah contradicted his Boss.

“I’m sorry but I’m using abracadabra. It rolls right off the tongue. And supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is from ‘Mary Poppins’.” Then God started singing a little “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.” “Man, I love that song.”

“Right,” Noah said, not wishing to contradict God. (But there was a little sarcasm in his voice.) He’d be wasting time. And he didn’t have time to waste. The sky was getting cloudy and it was definitely going to rain.

If he’d learned anything, he’d learned not to argue with God. He could argue with his neighbor. He could argue with his sons. He could argue with his wife. But never ever argue with God. It was just a waste of time and he wasn’t going to win anyway. There was nothing God liked more than a good argument.

“Okay,” Noah said. “When do I say this abracadabra supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?”

“Next Tuesday,” God said.

“Next Tuesday? But I thought—”

“Look. It’s going to take a little time to get all those animals to behave.”

“But You made the heavens and the earth in seven days.”

“What do you think I am?” God asked. “A miracle worker?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Making everything was easy. Saving stuff takes a little more time. After you humans got ahold of things, everything went to hell in a hand basket. Why do you think We’re having a flood?

“I need five days to calm all the animals down. Those elephants are not happy, being bossed around. You can get trampled if you’re not careful. Those lions, man, they bite. And have you tried to clean up all that poop? If I am to dam them up for forty days and forty nights, it’s going to take some time. And I gotta tell you. That dove better be on time after You take off for parts unknown. If the ark doesn’t have a timely landing, the overflow is going to make the flood look like that pond in your back yard.”

Noah sighed. “You’re right, God. And when You’re right, You’re right.”

“Darrn tooting. Now let’s practice.”

“Okay,” Noah said, happy to be back on God’s good side. “Abracadabra supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

“No, not that. This,” then God lit out with the song. “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Noah followed, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Noah’s wife, Mrs. Noah, yelled from the kitchen window. “Would you guys shut up out there? Who do you think you are? Mary Poppins. For God’s sake, you’re no Julie Andrews.”

Next week Noah’s wife gives God a bit of nutritional advice.”You do know that sugar is bad for you.”