Our Mother’s Dying

Our Mother is dying.
Why aren’t we trying
To live the answer
That’ll heal her cancer?

The disease is a rout,
Her hair’s falling out;
Her colors up and gone,
Her breath almost to none,

Her blue eyes a gray,
Her smile’s slipped away,
And soon she will cease.
May the planet rest in peace.

Then we’ll say a eulogy,
Offer an apology
On that day soon to come
When her beauty’s all gone:

For her dulling colors,
Her polluted waters,
Her forests now dust,
And her air turned to rust.

Her hills won’t be green,
No robins to sing,
The whales dead and beached,
And oceans smell of stench.

Then we’ll send our request
And give it our best,
A prayer for a world
Uncluttered and spoiled.

“No thanks,” God will answer,
“You caused the cancer.
While racing for the stars,
You turned the Earth into Mars.

And tried for all its worth
To turn Mars into Earth.”
And this from God above,
“I gave you one planet to love.”

A Marriage

“Why do you always run off to the shower after we make love?” This could be the man or the woman asking. On this particular night, it is the woman.

The man, her husband, slides back into bed beside his wife’s naked body, reaches over, kisses her lightly on the lips. She resists his kiss.

He withdraws to a few inches from her face. “You know you can join me in the shower. It’s not like there’s not enough room.” The best defense is a good offense.

He’s not ready to give up on that kiss. He tries again for her lips.

She is having none of his attempts at getting on her good side. “All I want is to be close,” she says, moving her lips away from his.

“I’m trying to be close now.” He catches her cheek with his kiss.

She pushes him away. “It isn’t the same. After we have sex, all you do is run away.” Slipping over to her edge of the bed, she gives him her back, then pulls the sheet tight around her, making it into a cocoon.

He drops off to his side of the bed. “But … Lenore,” he protests.

“Why do you choose to call me that?” she tosses over her shoulder at him. “You know I don’t like it, Sam.”

“What do you mean? Call you what?” he speaks to her back.

“Lenore,” she says the name as if it is a curse.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Of course it’s her name.

“It’s what my mother calls me. But I’m Nora and you most definitely know that.” Of course he knows it. He has called her Nora a thousand times and more. Her back is now a wall and she’s not allowing any climbing over it. Not for this night anyway.

”I like Lenore. It has such a romance to it. Just like you.”

Silence. Not a sound coming from behind that wall.

After several minutes of waiting for a truce and a goodnight kiss, he reaches over and switches off the bedside light, sighs and slides deeper into the bed. He lies on his back and studies the shadows spreading out across the room as the night grows deeper.

A sob escapes through a crack in that impenetrable wall lying next to him. His wife is crying, pouring herself into her pillow. He reaches over to offer her a tender, comforting touch.

She moves away from his hand and rolls over and faces him. “My name is Nora. And just why do you always feel the need to wash me off after we have sex? Guess you can’t stand the smell of me, the taste of me, the touch of me on your skin. Bet you can’t even stand the sound of me.”

He starts to protest but holds it in.

“Next thing I know you won’t even be able to stand the sight of me.” Shoving the covers off, she jumps out of bed, grabs her robe, heads for the door. Takes one last look at the man in her bed. “Ever since Candace went away to college,” she says, changing the subject but not really. She throws the robe on and heads off down the hall.

He calls after her. “Candace doesn’t like Candace for a name, you know.” Their daughter likes to be called Dash.

“That’s her name, Sam-u-el,” she cries out into the night. She’s Candace’s mother and she can call her daughter any damned name she wants. Why doesn’t he understand that?

“And Lenore is yours,” he wants to yell back but doesn’t. She is the woman he loves, has always loved, and he knows that this is not a good time to call out “Lenore”.

He moves over onto his side and faces the wall, pulls the sheet closer around his body. He hates these dark, restless nights when nothing seems to go right. When everything he tries is wrong.

He waits in the dark and hopes. What is he hoping for? That she’ll come back to bed? That he can somehow show her that he didn’t mean for the night to turn out the way it has? Maybe that, after twenty years of marriage, things can change? That he can change? He keeps hoping but he knows. This will not be the night.

It’s one thirty and he has to get up in the morning for work. But he’s not going to get any sleep. Not till Lenore comes back to bed, and they make up.

Why does he keep calling her Lenore? he wonders in his sleeplessness. He knows how much she hates it. It’s only at times like these when he drops his guard that she she is no longer an average, everyday Nora. She is the Lenore of his best dreams and he is recalling their honeymoon in that long-ago before twenty years wore down their marriage.

He glances over at the clock on his nightstand once again. It’s two and she’s not coming back. He slips out of bed, pulls on this pajama bottoms and a robe.

Downstairs and out on the patio, she hears him slide the glass door open behind her. “I’m not mad,” she says to nobody in particular. “It’s just that, well I’m not mad.” This time she’s speaking to her husband.

There she goes. Making peace. Why does she always do that? he wonders. “I was a jerk,” he says, looking at the back of her neck. The moon throws its light across the room, and he can’t ever remember seeing anything so beautiful.

“No, you were just being you.” Her voice is soft and lonely. Then she thinks, “There I go again, making peace. Why do I always do that?”

He doesn’t know what else to say or do so he waits.

She looks over her shoulder and up into his face. His eyes gaze at her the way he did that first night oh-so-many-years-before on the the beach where they first fell in love. Her hand reaches out for his, takes it, draws him to her side on the bench. “I love this house,” she says.

“It has been a good house.” He sits down next to her.

“I wasn’t sure it was the one for us.” She leans her head on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know that.” He squeezes her hand with all the affection that comes from years of loving and arguing and making up and arguing and making up some more. “I wasn’t that positive myself.”

She squeezes back. Her head feels the strength of the shoulder she has always known that she can lean on no matter what. No matter what. She then takes her head off his shoulder and looks up at the sky. “That sure is a pretty moon.”

“We didn’t think we’d we be here that long.”

“And, my god, the mortgage.” She laughs.

“We’d never owed that much money to anybody. But Dash loved it.”

“We thought we were buying the moon. Five years old and Candace knew it was for us.”

“Why do you keep on calling her Candace?” he whispers. “You know how much she hates it.”

“Why do you insist on calling me Lenore?” she whispers back. “It spoils everything.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, unsure how to tell her all that her name means to him.

“I can see we got what we paid for.” She is back thinking about the house.

“It was a good price.”

She points toward the sky. “We got that moon too, and it is much better than the one we thought we were buying.” She looks at it for several minutes. “You think that Brett and Dash will last as long as we have?”

“I hope so. He seems to love her but not as much as I loved you then, Nora.” He kisses Lenore, not a soft easy kiss, not a deep passionate kiss, but a kiss that makes up for everything. And she kisses him. Then he whispers, “And still love you.”

She stands, reaches for his hand, and they go inside.

On the way up the stairs, he says, ”If you let me call you Lenore every-once-in-a-while, I promise not to run off to the shower after we make love.”

“Only when we’re alone,” she says from the stair above him.

He nods yes, and they are back in bed and soon asleep.

Forgiveness fills the house as it has so many times before and they continue their married life together. At least for one more day.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Another Perfect Day

Pam: So when am I going to meet your father?

Carol: You don’t want to meet my father.

Pam: I don’t?

Carol: Take my word for it.

Pam: Why?

Carol: My father is old fashioned. Extremely so.

Pam: So what do you do?

Carol: I spend my life collecting perfect days. Like this one.

Pam: What would be imperfect about meeting your father?

Carol: It just would.

Pam: I’ll let you meet my dad if you’ll let me meet yours.

Carol: I don’t have a dad. I have a father.

Pam: Then I will meet your father and it will be a perfect day.

Carol: Would you do that for me?

Pam: I would do that for us.

The next morning the two of them drove the long drive south to see Carol’s father. It was a warm spring day. They did not run the air conditioner. They rolled down the windows and let the wind blow through their hair. They stopped and had lunch at one of the several Cracker Barrels along the interstate. Then they drove on, laughing and giggling. Every so often a little worry sneaked into Carol’s laugh. She tried to hide it from Pam but Pam could tell. Pam didn’t mention it. She didn’t want to spoil the perfect day.

Carol’s father, Marv, met the two women at his door. Later, after he grilled some hamburgers, the three went into the living room. Marv sat down facing the two of them.

Marv: So, Carol, you want to know what I think?

Carol (fear in her voice): “Yes, I do.

Marv: Well, Pam seems nice enough. But I am a bit disappointed.

Carol (under her breath): Here it comes,

Marv: I spent all that money, raising you, putting you through college. You go out and can’t even make a living with that major of yours. I mean, c’mon. Political science. You’re still working at that retail job you’ve had for five years and you’re only making minimum wage. Then you go and waste yourself by marrying a…“Your mother would be so disappointed. She expected better out of you.”

Carol: Go ahead. Say the word.”

Marv: What word?

Carol: You know, marrying a lesbian.

Marv: No, marrying a writer. I’m sorry but I won’t be able to support the two of you.

Strawberries

Denise almost left home that sunny Saturday morning without any perfume on. On her way through the front door, she changed mind, deciding that it was a perfume kind of day. A few dabs behind the ears and on the neck, and she was off to shop. On her way to her favorite shopping destination, she hummed along to the song on the oldies station, “Strawberries Mean Love”, thinking, “Wouldn’t that be nice.”

At the mall, she hit three, then four stores, finding nothing in particular to satisfy her hunger for a bargain. She hated to go home empty-handed. One final store and she would give up her treasure hunt for the goodies that would make her day.

Then it came to her. Since she was out-and-about anyway, why not check out a men’s department? Her younger brother had a birthday coming up in a month. Maybe she would find a pair of engraved cuff links. Or, yes, some monogrammed handkerchiefs. She entered a department store and strolled up one aisle and down another and toward the men’s wear, stopping here and there to size up a dress or feel the lingerie. While scanning several rings in the jewelry display, she fantasized about what-might-have-been-and-never-was. Several leisurely stops and she was on to the handkerchiefs.

A few aisles over, a familiar figure appeared like some ghost floating out of the fog of a daydream. “Phil, is that you?” she called over to the figure inspecting the ties, reassuring herself that the man was real and not a passing fancy.

Phil glanced up at the blonde with the close-cropped hair, approaching him. “Yes, it’s me,” he said and went back to the ties. “But I’d rather not think so,” he mumbled.

She was at his side, leaning up to kiss him. He kissed her. It was not a lover’s kiss, just a quick smooch between once-upon-a-time friends. Her perfume smelled like strawberries. He liked the taste of strawberries.

“It’s been two years,” she said.

“Longer.” His eyes rejected a tie that would go well with a dark blue suit and moved on to a light green one.

“I’ve missed you.”

He ran his hand over a black tie with small white dots. Black as their last night together and the snow pouring out of the sky hard and fast. His face did not show any sadness, only his eyes. She knew that face well enough to know how sad he must be feeling, and she was sad. The sadness only lasted a few seconds, then it passed and he was back to the ties.

“What you been up to?” she asked, her voice going soft.

“Buying a suit.” There was frustration in his voice. “First I have to find a tie. Then a suit to match.”

“Maybe I can help.”

He took another whiff of her perfume and said, “Maybe. I sure can’t seem to find anything and I’ve been at it for weeks now.” He always liked her perfume, her smell. It could bring out the warm and fuzzy in him, or drive him right up alongside the moon.

“Aren’t you doing things backwards?” She reached over and fingered the ties. “Don’t you choose the suit first? At least, I think that’s how it’s done.”

“I like to know the way things are going to turn out. You know, at the end.” He tugged at a tie and pulled it off the rack. It was red. Strawberry red. He shook his head, trying to shake himself free of the strawberries.

“Won’t that destroy the suspense?” She took the tie and held it up against Phil’s chest. “Nah, that one’s too bright for you.”

He put the tie back with its neighbors.

Denise looked at the ties, then at Phil, then back at the ties. “What about something white?”

“Too obscure.” His eyes followed her eyes. Maybe she could find the right tie.

“What?” There was a small question mark on her face.

“It’s like Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Way too much mystery. I want people to know what I’m about. At least, a little anyway.”

“What’s life without a little mystery?” The question mark had grown larger. “Keep them guessing, I always say.”

“You say that, do you?” He smiled, remembering how she had once kept him guessing, his face becoming the man she had cared about back in her younger, sexy days.

“I do.” She smiled too. “What’s wrong with a bit of snow?”

“It’s not the bit of snow that bothers me. It’s when I find myself knee-deep in it, and I have to sludge myself through all that slush. I want things to be hard, but not that hard. I just don’t have the boots for it.”

“Why not give people a little challenge?”

“They might end up lost,” he said, “and they will not want to finish the book.”

“You mean that novel you’re writing? Whatever happened to that thing? It was all you used to talk about.”

“I need a suit first.” His eyes settled on a tie she was handling. Her hand looked like it had grown attached to it and couldn’t let loose.

“What’s a suit got to do with writing?” She lifted the thing off the rack and passed it to him.

“It’s what the muse seems to be demanding these days.” He studied the tie. A midnight blue with small red dots scattershot across it. Strawberries. More strawberries. Damn those strawberries. He frowned and gave it back to Denise, wondering if that was the best she could do.

The tie went back on the hanger and she encouraged, “You don’t need a suit to write. You just write. You don’t need a special uniform. Just a bathrobe and a cup of coffee.”

“I’m telling you the muse will not let me get on with that novel without a suit. No suit, no novel.” He was determined to follow orders. Find the right tie, then the right suit, and wallah, a novel. But perhaps another Saturday, another store. In the meantime, he might just get some fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market. It was probably too late in the season. “Besides it’s a suit kind of novel.” Maybe he would write a novel about strawberries. Once he found that suit. And Denise had been no help at all.

“Try this one.” Denise held up another tie. She settled it against his chest. It was a dark green with broad white stripes. Her eyes twinkled when she liked a thing, and her eyes were twinkling, looking at the tie and the shirt she laid it against. “Remember when we used to play Anais and Henry?”

Taking the tie, his hand weighed the heft of it. It felt solid and it didn’t have that silky touch to it like some. Good. He threw the thing around his neck, knotted it and drew it tight. Scrutinizing the tie in a mirror nearby, he saw a white sky. He saw green fields where strawberries might grow. “Yes, that’s about right,” he said to the reflection of a man who was ready for a novel. He did like the tie.

“What I remember is that I wanted to play D. H. Lawrence and Frieda,” he said. “But no, you kept insisting it had to be Henry and Anais. Personally I think you read way too much of her diaries. As I recall, that’s why we broke up. She brought out the worst in you. And I don’t mean that in a good way either.”

“It’s Anais and Henry, or did you forget? Oh, that’s right. You kept changing the names then too. That was why we broke up.”

He went to say something. However her smell of strawberries pulled him off that road. His face went gentle. He reached for her hand and squeezed it ever so lightly. Her hand was still as soft as he remembered it to be.

She hesitated, then relented her regret. It had been a long time. She squeezed back.

Both had enjoyed their little disagreements. It made for some heavy duty making-up. But the time had come when there was less and less of that and more and more of the squabbling. Their relationship was just no fun anymore. Then it was over. Nada. No more. Who knew such little things like the order of names could cost them so much. They held hands before the ties for a moment, then they went back to their two separate worlds.

On their way to the suits, they took a detour at the shirts. Denise picked one out which they both thought would go just right with the one good tie they found.

“Think I’ll look good in brown?” he double-checked to make sure they had made the right choice.

“You’d look good in anything.”

“You lie well.” He leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips. She kissed him back and moved closer to him. His fingers ran over a dark suit coat. The wool felt good to his touch. He liked the natural feel of it. It gave him the feeling that there was a novel in him and he would complete it. And soon. All that needed doing was the writing, and that was no big deal. No big deal at all. In that suit staring back at him, the muse would be pleased.

“Of course,” she said, her slender fingers joining his. “But you will look good in that suit. Good enough to make that novel shine.” Their hands waltzed over the lapel of the jacket. The coat slipped off the rack and he tried it on. After buttoning it up, she adjusted the tie. “Is this novel to be about us?” Her eyes sparkled with hope.

“Not sure. Maybe. Well, yes. It could be. I can see that now. After all, it is an adventure story. And we did have some adventures, Dennie. Back in the olden days.”

“There’s nothing to say that we can’t have some more.” Her fingers massaged his palm. “If you’re inclined?” She let go of his hand, reached over and pulled the suit pants off their hanger, then measured them against Phil.

Suddenly he felt the absence of her hand. “What are you trying to say?” She heard road block in his voice. “That I’ve had a bad case of writer’s blues without you?”

“All I am saying is that it looks like you’ve found yourself a suit.” Her voice was gentle with reassurance. “That is all I’m saying. It’s a good earthy brown too. The kind that will allow you to dig your heels into the language and write, don’t you think? Why don’t you try it on?”

The two headed over to the changing room.

“So how soon do you intend to finish this masterpiece now that you have the suit?”

“Soon as I can figure out how it will end,” He took the pants from her. “I plan to write it backwards. Kind of like the Hebrew alphabet telling the story. I’m in no hurry. I could take a hundred years, and then some, to put the final touches on it.”

“You’re not going to do a James Joyce? You’re much too tall.”

“No, I know where the commas go. And the periods too.”

“What makes you think you have all the time in the world?”

“Doesn’t everybody?” he said and left her to wait for him to return from changing into suit and shirt and tie.

Her eyes twinkled when she saw the Phil come out of the changing room.

“When do you plan getting the ending together?” she asked as she helped him adjust into the suit, running her fingers over the jacket to make sure it fit just right, then she brushed the pants ever so slightly. “Soon I hope. I’d like to read it.” She stepped back to admire their work.

He looked at himself in the full-body mirror. They both liked what they saw.

“I think that it will end the way they all end.” He tugged a bit on the jacket, straightening it into a perfect fit. “’And they lived happily ever after.’”

“For a season anyway.”

“I can handle that.” He was pleased that he almost had his ending. And that she would be in it. The words for that ending were on the tips of his fingers. All he had to do was let them pour onto the page. “In fact, I can handle just about anything in this suit. Even that muse of mine.”

“Let’s get a cup of coffee to celebrate,” Denise offered, happy that the day had indeed turned into a perfume kind of day . “And then, well then we can get started on that novel. If you’re in a writing mood.”

“Think I’m in the mood for strawberries. Just as soon as I change.”

“Better hurry then, before they go out of season.”

The Rediscovery of Sex

I was watching an old 1930s movie recently. A couple got married. They never had a honeymoon. The husband carried his blushing bride over the threshold, dropped her in the living room, then went off to work. The wife went shopping.

In the one scene in the bedroom, there were twin beds. Both husband and wife wore pajamas. They gave each other a good night smooch, then each crawled into their twin bed and went off to zzzz-land. No time in the movie did the couple even hint at the s-word.

Since movies are a very good reflection of real life, none of the thirties romances had sexual activity. If couples were having sex, they kept it on the q.t. Guess that was why it was called the Great Depression.

It got me thinking. How did they avoid sex? I mean, these days sex is everywhere. It’s on magazine covers. It’s in the ads. It’s in the movies. It’s on tv. It’s in the music. It’s even on the evening news. We can’t seem to get enough of it. So just how did our forefolks avoid sex? Why would they want to anyway? Why did it take a World War to bring back sex?

Big questions. Recently Uncle Bardie came across an ancient tome called  “The Real Kinsey Report” that explained much that has been hidden from history. Lord Byron was one of the last two people in England in the Nineteenth Century to enjoy a ménage à duet, his female partner à duet being the other people. As the famed Lord was making a strategic withdrawal, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were engaged in hanky panky on the HMS Queen Mary. The thing is there was more hanky than panky.

Vickie and Bertie were off on their honeymoon. Of course, you do know that the origin of the word “honeymoon” was Anglo Saxon for “tiddlywinks”.  As soon as Bertie showed his blushing bride his tiddly and she showed him her winkie, they both realized this would never do. She said, “Ewwww.” And she meant it. He said, “Yech.” And he meant it. That was the end of sex as our forefathers and foremothers knew it. The end of foreplay. And afterplay too.

They returned to Buckingham Palace and declared that there was to be no more sex in the land. To make sure that their command was obeyed, they proclaimed a proclamation and they decreed a decree. Every female over the age of twelve not only had to wear a girdle. She had to wear a corset, even when she went to bed. Especially when she went to bed.

Unlike Prohibition, the new regime of non-coitus dilecti was widely popular. The Germans loved it. The Russians loved it. The Chinese loved it. The Greeks loved it. The Americans loved it. The Italians, not so much. Only the French resisted. And the Canadians who were half French anyway. The Canadians just shook their heads and thought, “Are they crazy? How are we to keep warm, eh?”

Late in the century, the French came around. We all know the details. It was the Albert Dufus Affair. Seems that A D was messing around with the Can-Can. Needless to say, it was uncanny how candid the Can-Can can.

The Can-adians never came around. Oh, sure. They too had a coitus interruptus with the Yukon Gold Rush. It was a brief run. Why have all that gold and not have anything to spend it on? So it was soon back to the business of coitus-ing all over the place. Like they say, nobody can the way a Can-adian can-can. Canada, what a country.

Since men and women didn’t make whoopee during the Great Sex Out, they didn’t need to smell good either. So no one took a bath.

Talk about Weather Changes and Global Warming. For almost one hundred years, Earth was bathed in a certain smell. Scientists blamed it on the Industrial Revolution. The truth is it came from the lack of bathing. The smell almost destroyed the ozone layer. The planet was carbon dioxiding all over the place.

For ten years after the Anti-Fornication Act of 1840, there were no babies born. “Why no babies?” the Victorians queried. Everybody liked babies. Oh, sure. There was the poop. Good thing the babies outgrew that. Not the pooping. Changing the diapers they pooped in.

The Victorians did not equate pregnancy with sex. They believed babies were delivered by storks. But there wasn’t a shortage of storks. So. Why no bambinos? It just wasn’t natural. Before they could say, “We’re really screwed,” a solution appeared on the horizon. It came from a most unusual source.

The North Pole. And it was not Santa Claus who presented a solution. Everybody presumed it was Dr. Livingston. But Dr. Livingston was deep in the heart of Africa presuming.

It seems that the Sir Rutherford Rutherford returned from his Great Balloon Exploration into Wild Blue Yonders of the Outer Atmosphere with an amazing artifact. You’ve heard of the iPod. He brought back an ePod.

A what? Yes, you heard me right. I said an Extraterrestrial Pod, known as an ePod. Extraterrestrials were born from ePods and it had been going on for centuries.

When ePods were first introduced to the rest of the planet, people were very skeptical. Some even afraid. Here is some footage taken at one of the first Royal Society meetings:

Soon the Victorians calmed down and realized this was the answer to a prayer. No sex and beaucoup babies. Before you knew it, most families were raising a crop of ePods in their backyards.

There were those who resisted like Abraham Lincoln. “Fourscore and seven years ago” was not about the Declaration of Independence. Abe was talking about the wild sexcapades our forefolks had back in the Olden Days. The Boston Tea Party was a protest, not over a tax on tea, but a tax on condoms.

I bet you thought Manifest Destiny was about increasing the size of the United States westward. It was not. It was about spreading the ePod Gospel. Custer and his Cavalry were taking a wagonload of ePods into Indian country. Sitting Bull had seen the future and he wanted none of it. It was every Indian’s right to have babies the organic way. None of that genetically modified babies for the Sioux.

Despite the resistance, the ePods became the way children came into this world by the beginning of the twentieth century. Oh sure, there were rebels without a cause like D. H. Lawrence and his Lady Chatterley. FDR was rumored to have said to Eleanor on their first night as a married couple, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

This was the way of things until World War II. The War destroyed most of the ePods. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they wiped out the ePod Supply of the entire United States. FDR wasn’t kidding when he spoke before Congress and said, “This is a Day that will live in Infamy.” He really meant it. By the end of the war, the Atom Bomb radiated the few ePods left.

For the next few years, the world was in despair. What to do? What to do? The Korean War was fought because the Allies believed the North Koreans were hoarding ePods. They weren’t. So the Allies lost interest and declared a Truce.

No one seemed to know what to do. Then Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr parted the waters.

Burt and Debbie showed us the way. Sex was back. And this time it was here to stay.

At least, till another ePod outbreak.