Alice from Wonderland

The woman rushed over to Joe’s booth. “You must be Joe. I’m Alice,” She threw her handbag down on the seat across from him and slide into the booth.

“You’re an hour late,” Joe said, trying to hold his anger in check.

Her face leaned toward him. “You bragging or complaining?” she whispered, then she gave him a wink.

“Are you always this late?”

“Well, I’m here now. And I’m famished.” She grabbed the menu from its slot and opened it.

Joe had been on plenty of dates but none like this. Why had he gone along with his sister’s suggestion that he meet Alice? “You’re going to love her,” Terri insisted.

Right, Joe thought.

The waitress came over. “Would you like to order? Now?”

“I’m sorry but she was late.”

Alice stepped into the discussion. “Don’t apologize to her.” She looked up at the waitress. “We’re going to need some time. Just bring me a glass of ice tea. Unsweetened. I like to sweeten my own tea.”

The waitress walked away with a “I’ve never” look on her face.

Alice continued with Joe. “You never did tell me if you were bragging or complaining. Which is it?”

Joe had had enough. Sister or no sister he was not about to continue with this crazy woman. He slipped his legs out of the booth and went to stand up.

Alice grabbed his arm. “Aw, c’mon. Sit back down, Joe. Otherwise you are going to miss the show.”

Joe checked himself and slid his legs back under the table. “The show?”

“Yeah, the show.” And she laughed. Then she asked, “Are you bragging or complaining?”

“Okay. I’ll go along. I’m bragging.”

“Well, good for you, Joe. If you had been complaining, I would be gone.”

“Just who are you?” Joe asked.

“The question is who are you,” Alice said, with a confidence that surprised Joe.

The waitress brought Alice’s tea. Alice took a sip and smiled. “Thank you,” she said pleasantly. “Now let’s order.” She opened the menu and said, “Burger and fries. Burger with all the trimmings. And fry the onions .” She leaned over toward Joe. “So my breath don’t stink.” Then back to the waitress. “Think you can handle that, dearie?”

“Yes,” the waitress said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Alice corrected her.

The waitress turned to take Joe’s order.

Alice called her back. “Yes, ma’am,” she insisted.

The waitress gave in. “Yes, ma’am.”

“That’s better,” Alice said, satisfied. She made one of those “pleased with herself” smiles.

“I’ll have the same,” Joe ordered. “And another coke.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, then she was off to the kitchen for the order.

Joe turned his attention back to Alice. “Why were you so late?”

“I was waiting on the rapture but it didn’t come. So I decided maybe it would be good to go on this blind date after all.”

“I almost left. Another five minutes and–”

“Naw, you weren’t going to leave. I knew that.”

“What makes you so cock-eyed sure of yourself?”

“Oh, Jesus told me that I had to meet you. And He was right. ‘Course He usually is.”

Joe wasn’t sure where this was going but he knew one thing. He didn’t like it. “What do you mean?”

“You know you’ve got some repentin’ to do.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She laughed. “I’m talking Jesus here. And your soul. It’s eternity you’re facing and you are not ready.”

“Oh, geez.”

“That’s right. Jesus. He’s the Man. And I’m here to make sure you get right with Him.”

“Okay, I’m out of here.” Joe stood up. He reached for his wallet and took out a ten and a twenty. “Pay the bill.”

“I am not taking your money. And I don’t think you’re going anywhere. It’s raining dogs and cats out there.”

Joe looked out the window of the restaurant. His jaw dropped. She was right. When had that happened? Joe went back into his seat. He looked dejected.

“Don’t take it so bad,” Alice said. “You’re not the apple of my eye either. It’s just that Terri asked me to go on this blind date we’re having. And you’re not exactly cooperating.”

Joe gave the comment some thought, then said, “You’re right.” For the first time in the evening, he sized up Alice and compared the two of them. He was lanky like the old rail splitter. Alice was short and a little bit on the plumpster side of things. He was bald. She had thick auburn hair. And her eyes twinkled.

The food came. As Joe took long slow bites, Alice consumed her food with gusto. If there was such a thing as three seconds flat, that would have been the amount of time it took Alice to down her food. Then she reached over and took his fries, dumped ketchup on them and sent them off to Never Never Land to join their companions. And she gabbed on between gulps.

Listening to Alice gab, Joe realized he kind of liked it. At least, the date was interesting. And he didn’t have to work the way he had for other dates.

Finally, she said, “You know, I can show you a good time. Not like those stuck-ups you’ve been dating.”

Joe nodded his agreement.

She continued, “First, we go to church and pray.”

“Go to church?”

“Sure thing. I want to see if Jesus approves.”

Joe paid the bill and they headed to the parking lot.

Alice took out her keys. “Let’s go in my car. You can come back for yours later.”

The rain had stopped and everything smelled fresh.

She opened the passenger door in a white Cadillac. Then she went around and took the driver seat. As they moved through the streets, Alice continued her gabfest.

“You know why Eve ate the apple?”

Before Joe could say his no, Alice went on, “My preacher said it was birth control.”

“Birth control?” Joe couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Never in his life would he have believed he’d be in a discussion about Adam and Eve and birth control at the same time. In his head, he had begun to hear Jefferson Airplane and “White Rabbit”. “One pill makes you larger, one pill makes you small.” He was absolutely sure she was that Alice.

“Pastor Gideon says Eve had a pile of kids while they were in the Garden of Eve. As soon as one popped out, her belly grew again. It was from that bunch that Cain and Seth got their wives. She was tired and wanted a break. She kept hinting that Adam might try going to a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting. But he kept saying, ‘I love you so much, Hon.’ She took one bite of that apple and wallah, it was more effective than a condom. And the pill. Together. Well, you remember what God told Adam and Eve.”

Joe couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Was there no stopping this woman? “No. I don’t.”

“He told them to be fruitful and multiply. And here Eve was trying to stop the multiplying part. That’s what got them kicked out of the Garden.”

With that, Joe couldn’t contain himself. He started laughing and he kept laughing a side splitting laughter until they reached her church, The Church of the Most High God and His Son, the Carpenter Jesus. Instead of a cross on the roof, the small white building had an apron.

Alice pulled into the empty parking lot and stopped the car.

Joe said, “I think I just peed my pants.”

“It’d be a darn shame if you didn’t.”

Joe looked down at his pants. Yep, they were wet.

“Well, it’s time. Let’s go in and see what Jesus thinks.”

Jesus must have approved. Alice and Joe have been together since that blind date some thirty-five years before.

Advertisements

Joe Angel

Joe Angel had been in the crowd during the Queen of Heaven’s coronation. He had been the angel the farthest away from the crowning. But that was the way with Joe. He didn’t get any of the big assignments like kicking Satan’s butt. He would have loved to take on that guy. But, no, his boss, Sgt. Big Angel Pants, told him he didn’t have the goods.

“I want to do something important,” he told the Sergeant.

“You are doing something important. You’re filling out the choir.”

“I’m so far away.”

“We don’t want you messing up the choir. You don’t have the voice to be up close to the Big Guy. Wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself, now would you?”

Joe went away from the meeting, wandering what his purpose was. It always seemed to be that he was not good enough for the better assignments. He headed to the heavenly kitchen for his shift at the dishwasher.

Beverly Angel was waiting for him. “You’re late,” she said.

“How can I be late?” the little guy asked. “We’ve got all eternity.”

“Joe, what’s gotten in to you? Your attitude used to be so positive. Lately it’s gone to hell.”

“I’ve been watching these You Tube videos on getting ahead in life. You got to watch them. You’d realize you don’t have it so good either.”

“Look, if you’re not careful, you’re going…Well, let’s just say you won’t like what happens.”

Just at that moment, Gary Angel peeked in. “Hey, guys, the Big Guy’s coming through tomorrow.”

Beverly jumped up and down and yelled, “Whoopee.” She had happy written all over her face.

But Joe stood dejected.

“Joe, what’s with you? You used to be an up kind of angel. Now look at you.”

Bev said, “You Tube videos.”

“Oh, c’mon. Not you, Joe.”

Bev again, “Yeah, ‘fraid so. And he’s got a bad case of ambitionitis.”

Gary gave a rather large sigh. “Joe, you got to straighten up. You’re an angel. Your glass is filled brimming to the top. Your cup runneth over. Don’t go where you’re going.”

“But, Gary—”

“No ifs, ands or buts. It’s time to turn that frown upside down.” He took Joe’s cheeks and forced his face into a smile. “Now that’s the Joe I like to see.”

Gary turned and headed to the door. Just as he was about to leave, he said, “Oh, Joe, could you please give those wings of yours the once-over. They’re starting to droop.”

As Gary left, he mumbled to himself, “I don’t know what’s happening to this younger generation. I started at that same dishwasher and look at me now. And tomorrow I get to sing tenor in Handel’s Messiah.”

Poor Joe. He always thought being an angel would be the greatest. Flying around on clouds and playing harp. That just hadn’t happened. Those jobs were saved for Michael and Gabriel’s relatives. Nepotism, you know.

Gary ran back into the dishwasher room. “Joe, the Big Guy wants to see you. You’re in trouble now. You’d better scoot over there fast.”

Joe left the kitchen, dejection all over his puss. The Big Guy. Man, this just wasn’t his day.

He walked to the Big Guy Building, showed his i.d. to the Big Guy guards, took the Big Guy elevator to the top floor and the Big Guy Suite. He walked into the lobby of the office. Behind the desk sat a tall blonde angel. She had the sweetest face.

“He’s waiting.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Joe said and entered the Big Guy office.

The Big Guy was reading a file on His desk. “Joe, take a seat.”

Joe sat down. The chair was so soft Joe almost disappeared in it.

The Big Guy looked up at Joe. There was a twinkle in His eyes and a smile on His face.  “We’ve been looking at your file. These last two hundred years you’ve done a slam, bang-up job. First there was the harp factory. Every body loved your harps. They had that special kind of sound We love. Then We sent you over to trumpet cleaning. Gabe was really impressed. And now the Dishwashing Brigade. You took the demotion like an angel. We know you’ve been down-in-the-mouth lately. All those You Tube videos.”

“Here it comes,” Joe thought.

“Thought We’d forgotten about you, didn’t you, Joe? Well, We haven’t.”

“What do you mean, Sir?”

“We’ve been looking for just the right job for a go-getter like yourself. And We’ve finally got something that should be right up your alley.”

“Escorting people to—to the bad place,” Joe thought.

The Big Guy came around His desk. He walked over to Joe and picked the angel up out of his cushiony chair and gave him the kind of hug only the Big Guy could give. When He released Joe from that hug, the angel thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

“Joe, you’re going to be joining Gabriel’s Brigade. You’ll have your own trumpet. You’ll get a new set of wings. And, of course, there’ll be a raise in pay. Think you can manage saying yes.”

“Y-y-y-y-es, Sir.”

Joe left the Big Guy office floating on a cloud. He took the Big Guy elevator down and went back to his dinky little apartment. That night he slept like a lamb.

Over the next two weeks, he reported to the Gabriel Brigade. They gave him new wings, a new robe, a new halo. He began his trumpet training. By the end of the two weeks, he was sounding pretty darn good.

One morning he showed up bright and early for work with that bright-and-early smile of his.

“Gabe wants to see you,” said the sergeant in charge of training the new guys.

Gabriel was tall, really tall. He had a glow on his face that would have put the sun to shame. He got up from his desk and shook Joe’s hand. “Welcome to the Show. I think you’re going to like it here.”

Joe smiled. “Thank you, Sir.”

“Now for your first assignment. Think you can handle it.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You know it was picked out just for you. By the Big Guy Himself.”

“Wow, just for me.” Joe had the kind of smile that only can an angel can have.

“Yes. Just for you.”

Joe couldn’t believe his luck. Finally he was going to get his just desserts.

Gabe stepped back and gave Joe the old looksee. Nodded and said, “When it comes to this assignment, I’ve got some good news.”

“Oh, boy,” Joe thought. His smile would have made even Gary proud.

“And some bad news.”

The April Fool’s Day Bride

Teri was a lovely bride. Mika had never seen any lovelier. Dressed in white from her shoes to the veil on her head, Teri made her way down the aisle, her train following two feet behind her. When she passed Mika, she turned toward her sister and winked that wink she had. It said that Teri had a surprise in store for her groom. Mika just knew that wasn’t good. Teri’s surprises could be extreme.

Teri had chosen April Fool’s Day for a reason. John, the groom, objected but Teri was adamant. “It’s that day or not at all.” Teri could be stubborn like that. John knew Teri’s sense of humor and the practical jokes she pulled. They were legendary. So he stood at the altar, anxious as all get-out. He wasn’t sure what was to come but he knew something was up. He just had to wait.

Teri’s parents knew trouble was on its way as well. So did the rest of the wedding attendees. Many were on pins and needles waiting for the axe to fall down. Others came just to see the surprise Teri had planned.

Teri reached the altar. Like the supporting actor he was, her father kissed his daughter on the cheek, then moved offstage. The couple said their I-doeses. The minister introduced the Mr. and Mrs. to the world, then the couple rushed down the aisle.

Mika gave a sigh of relief. Teri had held back on her surprise. Now it was on to the reception. That must be where Teri was to deliver her whammy. The wedding reception went smoothly, not any sign of a practical joke.

When the waiter brought in the wedding cake, Mika thought that this must be it. The cake would blow up, and there would be a mess everywhere. Mika managed to get to the back of the attendees just in case. The bride cut the cake, then the waiters laid slices of cake on plates and passed them out. Mika took a bite. The cake was delicious. Finally, it was time for the bride and groom to head for Hawaii for their honeymoon.

After they were gone, Mika asked her mom, “What just happened?”

“I don’t know. She’s not planning on destroying the honeymoon I hope.”

“I hope not too.”

“Poor John.” He mother shook her head.

Deep down there was terror in Mika and her mother’s hearts. They remembered Teri’s prom. She almost blew up the gym. She would’ve if her father hadn’t stopped her plans. They remembered how she had made her college campus news. Somehow she had switched every one of her sorority sister’s clothes around. It took weeks for each woman to get all her clothes back. The stunt had gotten Teri expelled.

On her first date with John, she had put jalapeno peppers in his chocolate mousse. After he calmed his mouth down, he had a good laugh over the incident. During their year of dating, Teri had given him a lot of good laughs.

Two weeks later, Teri and John came back from Hawaii. When asked, John commented, “I’m not sure what happened. But something’s coming. I just know it.”

Mika took Teri aside. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The joke? When’s it coming?”

“Oh, that.” Teri laughed.

“You’ve got something planned. What is it?”

“Sometimes a joke is no joke at all.” There was that impish grin on her face.

“What?”

“I’m just saying,” Teri said. “One thing is for sure.”

“And what would that be?”

“He’d better remember our anniversary. Otherwise–let’s just say, I’m saving up.”

 

 

Near 500 words: The gift

Alicia wanted to go dancing. Dancing had been her passion since she was a girl. When she was thirteen she had tried out for ballerina.

“Your butt is…well, let’s just say, your butt is too much butt,” the dancing school owner told her. “And besides you’re too short.”

Wasn’t that just the way with dreams?

In high school, she’d liked painting. And she’d been half good the way she was with a lot of things. She was a half good sketcher, a half good runner, a half good writer, and a half good singer. Half good but nothing special. Until she got a camera for Christmas.

It was from her mother. Her mother, who hated Alicia’s dreams being quashed. Every night she went to sleep thinking how she might give Alicia some support. It broke her heart to see her daughter’s face drop when she was told she couldn’t. Her mother wasn’t sure about the camera.

Alicia looked at the camera. It wasn’t much of one but it was all her mother could afford. She’d picked it up at a pawnshop. And she had gotten her daughter two rolls of film.

Alicia took the camera out and examined it. Played around with it the way a boy plays around with his first football, giving it a good once-over before he tosses it. Finally she opened the box with the film. She pushed one of the rolls into place. Without being told or reading the instructions, she knew just what to do. She adjusted the lens, aimed and shot her mother. Click went the camera just like it had been waiting to do.

That first roll of film her mother paid for. “But that’s it,” her mother said. “I don’t have the money for more.”

Alicia picked up the developed photographs a few days later. She waited until her mother came home late that night from her job.

“What’s going on?” her mother asked, giving her a suspicious look. She’d never seen that kind of look on her child’s face. She wasn’t sure whether to be concerned or happy.

“I picked up the pictures,” Alicia’s voice full of all the excitement a girl of fourteen can have.

Her mother dropped her purse on the table. “Well, let’s see.”

The two, mother and daughter, sat at the table as Alicia opened the treasure chest of a packet with her photographs. She shook them out of the envelope and onto the table. Her mother picked up one and she picked up one. Then they exchanged. The photographs were only half good. All of them but one. That one was magical.

That was years ago.

Now Alicia was ready for some dancing. She jumped on the back of Daisy’s motorbike and off the two of them went. They were going dancing, and then Alicia would take her pictures of the whirling dervishes of dancers on the dancing floor.

That night she danced and drank and laughed and took her pictures, knowing that the world had many more photographs waiting for her.

Zona’s Choice

Zona worked in a jewelry store. In her long dresses and her long hair braided all the way to her feet, she had a soft way about her. Each customer she treated like they were the only person alive. When she was asked about this, how she managed to focus on that person, she said, “Meditation. I meditate for sixty minutes each day.”

Zona had worked in the shop for ten years. She was always the first there and the last to leave. The owner was amazed at her commitment. He had never seen another who had that kind of commitment to anything. It just wasn’t done.

After thirty years of marriage, the owner’s wife died. He loved her deeply but she left him no children. The two of them had wanted children, but, after ten years, they quit trying. It was the gods’ plan for them and they accepted it. Although begrudgingly.

After a year’s time after her death, Mr. Kelps, the owner, began to think about Zona. She too had lost her husband. She and Min had only been married a year. Then she had gone to work for Mr. Kelp to support herself. His wife had liked Zona.

One night, Mr. Kelp closed the shop early. He asked Zona into his office after the other three workers left. Looking across from his desk, he said, “Zona?” He smiled. He liked the sound of her name. “I have a request.”

Zona’s response was yes, she would be willing to work a sixth day.

“That’s not what I am going to ask. You work hard five days a week and that is enough.”

Zona listened, thinking maybe a raise. She was happy with her salary. It provided for all her needs. And she had enough left over to save for her old age.

Then he asked, “Zona, would you be my wife?”

Never in a thousand years had she suspected such a thing. Mr. Kelps could have any of a number of young women in the city he wanted. Their fathers would gladly agree. Why her? In all the ten years she had worked at the shop, she had not imagined marriage. Through the years, she had come to love the kind man she sat across from. But she thought it was the love of a sister she had for him.

He continued, “I have realized over the last year how much you mean to me. You are not just an employee. Of all those I know, you are the one I trust most. And how much affection I have for you. This past week, I realized that it is more than affection. It is love. I have fallen in love with you.”

Zona listened as she listened to each person who was speaking to her.

He continued, “Have no fear. If you say no, you will not have to worry about losing your work here. And I will never speak of this again. Only you and I will know. But if you say yes, I will be happier than the gods.”

“May I think about your request?” she asked. “I will give you an answer at the end of six days.”

“Of course,” Mr. Kelps said. “Take your time. I only want your happiness. And consult any one you need.” As he watched the woman leave, he knew his wife would have been pleased with his choice.

That night, Zona went home. She prepared and ate her dinner of rice and vegetables. Then she cleaned up and sat for her evening’s meditation. Sitting on the floor before her mandala, she meditated longer than usual. She turned to her husband’s ashes. “Min, what do you think? Is this what I should do?”

Anytime Zona had a question or just wanted to bear her soul to someone, she addressed her husband’s ashes as they sat in the urn by her mandala. Even if she did not have an answer, she always felt comforted that her Min was close by. This time she was very concerned. If she married Mr. Kelp, Min would no longer be the one she shared thoughts and concerns with. She was not sure she could live without Min in her life.

She crawled into her bed and pulled the large blanket over her body. And she cried. She had not cried this way since her husband’s funeral. After the funeral, she had wanted to end her days. But she held back. It was a great sin she would be doing. Her people believed that. No matter what happened. One did not take fate into one’s hands. One struggled and lived with their destiny. Was Mr. Kelp her destiny? Only Min and the gods could tell her.

For four nights, she sat before the mandala and Min’s ashes. She had spoken her mind and she waited on Min and the gods. Only they would present a way forward. If they were silent, that also was her answer. She would not marry her employer.

On the fifth night, Zona had a dream. She walked along a pathway. On each side of the path were lovely trees and the most beautiful flowers. The path was wide enough for three. On her right side walked Min. On her left was one of the gods. They held her hands and they walked for what must have been hours until they came to a gate. Min and the god let go of her hands. Min gently pushed her forward through the gate.

Zona did not hold back but she did not go forward willingly. That was her way. Min and the god knew that.

She went through the gate, then turned and saw that Min was giving her his blessing. He leaned through the gate and kissed her cheek. So did the god. Then they were gone.

Zona turned to see a garden filled with flowers. She had never smelled such fragrance from flowers before. Then a rooster outside crowed and she woke up. Tears filled her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

She dressed the way she always did. She had her morning rice. Then she gathered up the urn and went to the temple.

A priest met the woman. She passed him the urn. Neither spoke a word. The priest knew what he was to do.

Zona left the temple. There wasn’t a smile or a frown on her face. There was only the peace she always wore.

The priest took the urn and scattered the ashes onto the fire lit for the gods. He said a prayer, then handed the urn to an assistant. Then he turned back to the fire and said, “Goodbye, Min. Your time on this earth is done.”

Min’s ashes gathered into what had once been Min and he flew away to join the gods.