A story with no names in it

Two trees on a hill. One, a strong oak lifted its limbs to the sky, wings ready to carry the tree to the clouds. Beside the oak, another tree, a willow bent and gnarled, its limbs reaching for the oak. Their shadows fell on a bridge below, a bridge that crossed a wide river.

On the bridge stood a man in his late forties, his hair completely gone. He steadied himself as he stepped over the parapet and onto the ledge. He faced the sky, a sky colored by the coming sunset. He thought about the times he’d dreamed of walking on air. But those were lies. All dreams were lies, he’d surmised some time ago.

Behind him, footsteps. A woman’s shoes.

He half-turns. A woman in a flowered summer dress joined him on the parapet some feet away.

“What are you doing?” he called over.

“Oh. Where did you come from?”

“Didn’t you notice me?”

“Can’t say that I did.”

“Well, this is my bridge. I’m not sharing it.”

She laughed. “I don’t see your name on it.”

“I called ahead to the bridge people and reserved it. I’m going to put it to good use. Now go away.”

“I will not.” She stepped over the parapet and onto the ledge.

“I’ll call a cop.”

She gave him one of those “you’ve got to be kidding” looks.

“Then at least leave me alone,” he said, “so I can finish what I started.”

“Isn’t that a gorgeous sunset? It’s a great way to go out. Makes me think I’m a star.”

For the first time, he took a real look at her. Her face glowed from the light. Her thick black hair rising in the breeze. “You are a star.”

She gave him a stunned look. “You’re not trying to pick me up. If you are, this is not the time. Or the place.”

“No.”

“I bet you tell all the girls who come here to end their lives that they are a star. You break their heart when they believe you. Then they have good cause to kill themselves. Well, I’m taking the short cut. It’ll save me and you a heap amount of time.”

“In fact, I’ve had my heart broken and I can’t go on.”

“You too, huh?” she said, then added, “You know you’re kind of cute. In a middle-age kind of way.”

“I am not cute. I hate that word.”

“Cute,” she threw at him. “Cute, cute, cute.”

“I know why you’re here. You annoyed the last guy you dated, and he told you he couldn’t stand your cutes anymore.”

She started crying. She looked down at the river. Her left foot stepped out onto the air.

“Now hold on.” He stepped back over the parapet and onto the bridge. He looked across the space that separated the two human souls. “Don’t. Don’t do it.” His don’t-do-it had a bit of hope in it. Not just for her, but for him too.

She set her left foot back on the ledge. “Why not?”

He took a step toward her.

“Just stop.”

“Look. Why don’t we just not.”

“Not?”

“Yes, not jump.”

The breeze sighed.

He looked up to the top of the hill. The oak and the willow stood before a large full moon. They looked like they were holding hand. He pointed at them.

“Do you see that?”

Her eyes followed his finger.

He approacehed her, and she let him approach her. “Are you the oak or are you the willow?” He took her hand and led her over the parapet and onto the bridge.

She felt the warmth of his hand. “Maybe sometimes I’m the willow; sometimes I’m the oak.”

“And maybe sometimes I’m the oak, and sometimes I’m the willow.”

He looked into her dark, Italian eyes. Stardust floated like snowflakes.

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What’s it all about?

After watching the final episodes of “Game of Thrones,” I have done some deep thinking about the whole darn thing. Several questions come to mind. Just what the heck was all that precious time devoted to? Would it have been more suited to watching “Seinfeld” episodes for the one-hundred-and-tenth time? Was that eighth season as bad as some fans say? Was it as much a disappointment as, say, the final episode of “How I Met Your Mother”?

Last things first. It was not as disappointing as the “How I Met Your Mother” fiasco. We can all rejoice that Cersei got her just desserts. Poor Jaime, he deserved better. Unfortunately he couldn’t resist drooling every time Cersei walked into the room. But I got to say that she wasn’t that bad with her clothes off. And I’ve seen her with her clothes. In fact, there weren’t any of the main characters I didn’t see naked.

And I came up with a good answer to the question, “What was it all about, Alfie?” It was about furniture. One particular piece of furniture. A chair. The iron throne. Was all the killing and sexing and hanging out with dragons worth it? After all, who would want to sit on the darn thing?

There’s a rumor going around the television channel that gave us “The Sopranos” that everybody who sat on the darn thing was given combat pay. After all, Joffrey could not sit down for a month after a couple of hours sitting his tush on it. Only Cersei could take the difficulty. That’s because everybody in the kingdom called her “Queen Iron Butt”.

As I considered the “Game of Thrones” dilemma of what was it all about, I came to some other conclusions. One of them being that the thing most super villains pine for is jewelry. Just look at the list. Sauron wanted a ring. Sure it wasn’t just any ring. But still it was jewelry. And Thanos, what did he want? Gems. Which is another word for jewelry. What did Lex Luthor want? Kryptonite. Which was just some green jewelry. Maybe he should have gotten in touch with Green Lantern.

Then there are the fairy tales. Just think Cinderella. All she wanted was a new pair of shoes. She ended up with a prince with a foot fetish. And talking about shoes. If Dorothy had surrendered those ruby reds, she would have avoided beaucoup amounts of trouble.

The Big Bad Wolf was a real estate developer trying to evict the Three Little Piggies. And Little Red was out for Granny’s real estate as well. But Big Bad got there first.

And what can you expect when you ask a Mirror who’s the fairest in the land? Fake news. The fairest may not have been the Queen. But neither was Snow White. That honor went to Sleeping Beauty. After all, she had Hollywood’s Best doing makeup when she won Miss Fairy Tale 2018.

As you can see, our heroes, our villains and our fairy tale folk are all after the same thing we ordinary mortals want. Furniture, clothes, real estate and beauty pageants. Why else do we play the lottery?

 

Nostalgia

George joined his father, Alex, at the cafe table. The older man finger-brushed his large bush of a white mustache. A tattoo of numbers from his gulag days littered his arm.

George took a sip of his dark coffee.

“Good, eh?” the older man asked.

George swallowed his sip. “Yes, yes.”

“See. I told you this place had the best joe around.”

“You did. But it looks like a dump.”

“Keeps the riff-raff away,” Alex said. “None of that Starbucks gang here. Only we coffee connoisseurs. Right, Nick.”

The white haired, pot-belied man at the next table nodded his head. “Best in the whole darned city.”

Alex laughed. “And the aroma makes me homesick for my Siberian days.”

George went on. “Papa, have you been getting your mail lately.”

“Yes. No problem with the mail.”

“I’ll tell you it’s getting worse and worse. It took two weeks for me to get a birthday card from Olga.”

“Two weeks?” the older man said. “That’s nothing. It used to take six months for me to get my utility bill.”

“Six months?” his son asked.

“Oh, yes. The utility company would call up and threaten to cut off the electricity.”

“Why didn’t they?”

“All I had to say was that I hadn’t received the bill. As soon as I told them, they said, ‘We understand.’ I told them that even if I had received the bill. Got us through the winters.”

“Why did they believe you?”

“Everybody’s mail was slow in those days,” Alex said, then lifted his mug in the air. The waiter saw him and brought another mug of coffee over.

“Why was the mail so slow?” George asked.

“It took forever for the secret police to read our mail. They were slow readers but good at beating people up.”

“It’s not that way anymore. The secret police are all college education. They do next day service. Or so I’ve heard.”

The old man raised his mug to his lips and drank and swallowed. “I think I like the old days better. Every thing has gotten so fast we hardly have time to think. And now they’re saying we have five per cent unemployment. Can you imagine?”

“C’mon, Papa, that’s the best it’s been in years.”

“You call that good. Why, in my day, we had full employment.”

“Did not.”

“Oh, yes we did.”

“I don’t believe you,” George said.

Accepting the challenge, Alex said, “Comrade Stalin had a very good solution to the employment problem. If you didn’t have a job, he shot you. I sure miss those good old days.”

The Never Never Land of Teenage Angst

It was another time and another place, America in the early sixties. Teenagers found themselves in a musical wilderness. It was that twilight zone between Rock ‘n’ Roll and Beatlemania. Buddy Holly was dead. Chuck Berry was in jail. Little Richard was working for God. Elvis had been drafted. The music had lost its wildness, its ability to save our teenage souls.

And our rebellion had lost its bite. James Dean died on a motorcycle one dark night, leaving our teenage angst in limbo. Hollywood gave us the Gidgets and fake imitations of James Dean and Marlon Brando. Even Dick Clark failed us by offering up the Bobby Rydells and Fabians.

All we were left with was souped up engines. Cruisin’ Main on Friday nights. Takin’ Betty Sue to the Prom. Getting to first base. And that was about it. It was Happy Days all around. At least, for our parents. But it had no meaning for us. We had lost the soundtrack of our lives.

Then, from out of nowhere, there blasted out of the speakers of our transistors and car radios a sound that melted our hearts. Our teenage heroes had returned in the form of four fellows–Georgie, Abe, Teddy, Jeffy–from our very own Peanut Butter & Jelly High. (How the school came by the name is a whole other story. Let’s just say the School Board couldn’t settle on a President. And what said America better than peanut butter and jelly. It was right up there with Mom and apple pie.}

The four went off to New York City, entered the Brill Building, enlisted the aid of Duncan and Joy, two seventy year old songwriters with the hearts of sixteen year olds. And The Rushmores were born. Suddenly we had a soul again.

Their first number one was a tribute to teenage angst. “I wanna love love love you if I don’t love you I wanna do.” When I heard that coming from the radio in my hot rod lincoln, it was like Dr. Frankenstein had shot electricity through my veins. We’d all been through it. So we knew the guys had walked the walk, and now they were talking the talk. I’d just struck out with Betty Lou, and The Rushmores were commiserating with me.

The Rushmores were not one hit wonders. They had plenty of arrows in their quiver. The next sent us to the dance floor. After hearing “Looney Tuney”, nobody was doing the Twist.

Do the Bugs Shake
Do the Daffy Rattle
And the Porky Roll
It’s on with the show
and the what’s-up-doc
It’s time to do
the that’s-all-folks rock.

The Rushmores had caught a wave and there didn’t seem to be a wipe out coming. They were totally bitchin’ with their tunes.

Now I am sure y’all have heard those nonsensical songs from the fifties like “Yakety Yak,” “Sh-boo,” and “Alley Oop.” Well, The Rushmores number three was “Soda Jerk”:
He’s no clerk
he’s a soda jerk.
Chocolate, strawberry,
vanilla with a cherry,
root beer float
ice cream in a boat.

And their biggest hit, “Her Name Was Sherelle,” was one of those teenage-tragedy weepers like “Last Kiss” or “Tell Laura I Love Her”:
Her name was Sherelle
The Devil gave her his big sale
He played her heartstrings well
Then he took her to a motel
Now she’s go-go-going to hell.

Just as The Rushmores hit the big time, they were drafted. And that ended their musical careers. Last we heard Georgie died in Vietnam, Abe got knifed in a gang fight, Teddy got kicked by a horse, Jeffy OD-ed on heroin.

Now I hardly ever hear The Rushmores on those golden oldies stations. But there are a beaucoup load of fans out here. We remember the days when they looked down from Music Mountain, and we dream what might have been. The four lads from Liverpool would have had some real competition.

A Slow Boat to China

The seagulls called the ship out to sea. The S.S. Majesty answered with three blasts of its horn. It was the ship‘s final call, urging the passengers to board before she packed up.

From the ship’s, Alice searched the crowd for John. “He will not come. I knew it.”
As she was about to give up and leave the cruise, she spotted John getting out of a cab. He paid the cab driver and grabbed his luggage.

She ran down the gangplank and called out to him, “I’m over here.”

He saw her and lugged his suitcases toward the ship.

“Hurry,” she said.

She wrapped her arms around and gave him one of her best kisses. “I didn’t think you’d be able to get away. But you did.”

“There was no way I was about to miss going away with you.”

She laughed, her anxiety slipping away. She glanced at his luggage. “You have everything?”

“I don’t need much.”

“You got your passport?”

“Passport?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I don’t have a passport.”

“You don’t have a passport? Get out of here. You have a passport.”

“I don’t.”

Alice looked at John with amazement. Alice pushed him away from her. “I’m leaving. I thought you were coming with me.”

“I am.”

“But you don’t have a passport.”

“We can go to Canada.”

“You need a passport to get into Canada.”

“Mexico?”
“Got to have a passport.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shook her head. “I’m leaving.”

Alice turned and boarded the ship. On the deck, she watched John slip away into the crowd.

A tall handsome man with the deep blue eyes sidled up to her. “I have a passport.”
She looked up at him. For approximately ten seconds, she was ready to swoon, then she came back to reality and stiffened her back. “You’re not my type.”
“What do you mean I’m not your type? Just what type do you think I am?”
“A man.”