Near 500 Words: Wedding Bell Blues

“Wedding Bell Blues” by the Fifth Dimension

Leaving his fiancee’s apartment after four-hundred-and-fifty-seven arguments over the wedding, hurrying down the stairs with the feet of Mercury, tripping on the crack in the sidewalk, picking his frustrated body off the ground, rushing toward the car, Owen caught sight of the flat tire on his Honda. Not stopping to change the tire, he rushed past the car, anger in each of his steps.

He dashed through an intersection, barely dodging a fortress of a truck. Down an unlit street and  toward the unknown, his fingers squeezed tightly against his palms. Coming to a dead-end, he turned onto a side street, then stopped in mid-stride. Standing there alone in the dark, gazing through the window of a house, seeing a couple arguing, he realized he had one more thing he wanted to tell Louise, his fiancee.

He glanced at his watch. It said three a.m. Where had the last two hours gone?

He turned and began the effort of retracing his steps. After several bad choices, he found himself back at this car and its flat tire.

Leaning against the red vehicle, taking out a cigarette for a quick smoke, lighting up the tobacco, drawing in one long drag after another, dropping the butt to the asphalt, he pulled on his emotional armor, readying himself for the combat about to come. He headed up the stairs two steps at a time. Arriving at Louise’s door, he pounded on it until he heard a movement inside.

From several apartments, neighbors shouted, “Cut the noise.”

The door opened. Louise stared up at the man she’d thought she was going to spend her life with. “What the hell do you want?”

“Okay. We’ll have a church wedding.”

“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep” At All by The Fifth Dimension

Prejudice

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Ellie’s mother was irate when Ellie told her she was engaged to Eddie.

“He’ll never do,” her mother said.

“But why? He’s wonderful to me. And on top of that, he has a position at a prestigious law firm. What more could a mother want for her daughter.”

“And I suppose he was an Eagle Scout?”

“How did you know? C’mon, Mom, tell me why you don’t like him.”

Her mother held back, ashamed at her prejudice. But she knew Eddie was not the guy for her daughter. She’d been through this with her other daughter and she had been right. Her marriage had not worked out.

“Call it a mother’s intuition. I don’t think he’s right for you.”

“Mother, please.” Ellie had always given into her mother’s idiosyncrasies. But not this time.”I love him, and I’m going to marry him, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So there.”

“Mark my words. It’ll be the worst decision of your life.”

Ellie shook her head, got up and washed her cup in the sink. “I gotta go.”

She went to the door and stopped. “Tell me. What do you have against Eddie?”

“it’s not Eddie. It’s you.”

“It’s me. What does that mean?”

“I mean it’s you two together. He’d be perfect for somebody else. He really would.”

Thinking she had some disease she didn’t know about, she asked, “What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re perfect the way you are.”

“But you just said.”

“All right. Sit down and I’ll tell you.”

Sitting across from her mother, Ellie waited for the truth.

Finally her mother let it out. “You both have the same alphabet letter at the beginning of your names. You’re both E’s.”

“What? That’s crazy. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Your names will confuse the reader. Pretty soon they won’t be able to tell Ellie from Eddie.”

“You think we’re characters in a novel?”

“That’s right,” her mother informed her.

“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

“Haven’t you ever wondered why you don’t have a birth certificate. Or you can’t remember elementary school or your first date or whether you’re a virgin or not?”

“Of course I’m not a virgin.”

“Who did the deed?”

“Why…uh…well, it was…Darned if I can’t remember. You mean?”

“Yep. We’re all characters in a novel. We just don’t know it.”

“So what do I do? It’s Eddie or it’s no one at all. I love Eddie with all my heart.”

Her mother thought about the dilemma for several minutes. Finally she asked, “Does Eddie have a middle name? I know you don’t.”

“Yes, and he hates it.”

“What is it?”

“Roscoe.”

“Well, that will never do.”

The Prodigal Father

Inspired by Shakespeare’s “Henry IV Part One. Have you ever wondered what happened after the Prodigal Son’s return to his father?

Twenty years or so after the Prodigal Son’s return, his father occupied a table outside a cafe on a small street near a city park. The old man lifted his half-filled wine glass, saluted the spring morning, touched the liquid to his lips, sipped the nectar, then smiled at his mouth’s delight as he waited for the younger of his two sons.

His thoughts elsewhere, he occasionally raked his fingers through his white beard, unknotting the long, fine strands. He lifted a pipe to his mouth and inhaled a slow puff of tobacco.

He remembered asking his son in that long ago time of the boy’s return, “Tell me. What was it like?”

“It was glorious. Until the money ran out. Stuck my thumb out and headed West, cause West was where the night life was. And I had one rip roaring time. There was down on my luck days and full house nights. Did the Vegas thing and lost everything, including the seat of my pants. Robbed a train or two. Me and my outlaw buddies. Spent some time out Siberia way. Cold so bad it froze the bones. Fell in love seven, eight, nine times. Prayed at the Ganges.”

Listening to the boy spill his stories out like he was tossing dice, he couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to just take off toward the horizon without a care in the world.

“So. What made you come back? The farm sounds like it’d be Boredom City compared to the life you were living?”

“Don’t know. Guess I got tired of mining for gold and coming up pyrite. When I tired of a life on the run, I got into my head to settle down. Thing is I didn’t have much job experience. Even for a swineherd job, I needed a resume. So I lied and made everything up. Then I got to feeling guilty. Lying just wasn’t in my blood. You’d taught me well where that was concerned.”

As his son talked, the father realized he’d missed so much. He’d taken over his father’s farm because his father couldn’t do the work anymore. If the farm had depended on happiness to prosper, it never would have prospered. But it had prospered as he sowed the seeds of his misery. That’s when he realized he had taken a hankering for the wondering life. It’s like they say. You don’t know you’re lonely till you glance at a happy couple.

That night he called his two sons into his library. Right there and then, he did a Lear. Handed his older son the deed to the farm with a check for enough money to manage. He gave his second son, the prodigal boy, another check. That left him with just enough cash to head for parts unknown.

He’d been places. He’d gone East when he could have travelled West. He’d wanted to find the place where the sky drew back a curtain and gave the opening act of the sun, a new day to play with. He’d never found that spot, though he tried. It was just as lost as the end of the rainbow.

Scanning the park nearby, he recognized his son, walking briskly toward him. The once-upon-a-time young man had put on some pounds but otherwise he’d prospered in the intervening years since the two had last seen each other.

The old man called the waiter over and ordered a second bottle of wine.

The younger man saw his father and hurried toward him. The two men embraced, then sat down. At the table, they took a long look at each other, and tears rolled down their faces.

“Where’s your brother?”

“He wouldn’t come.”

“Figures.”

“How are you, Pops?”

“Still ornery enough to kick your butt.”

“I bet you can.”

The old man poured out two glasses of wine. Then they sat silently gazing into the park. They had never been a talkative bunch, he and his sons. His long dead wife had done most of the talking, often carrying on both sides of the conversation.

The sun slipped out of the sky and slowly the evening settled into shadows. In the silence, the father reached across the table and squeezed his son’s hand.

“I love you, Son.”

“I love you too, Pops.”

It was close to midnight when the two stood up and embraced.

“You sure you won’t come home with me? For just one night. Liza would love that.”

“No, Son. It wouldn’t be right. Your brother would think I was playing favorites again.”

The Son nodded. He knew what his father meant.

“‘Sides I got to get on. There’s a whole wide world out there to explore.”

The two embraced one last time, kissing each other’s cheeks. Then it was goodbye.

The son walked away, glancing back at his father several times, each time a longing in his eyes, a longing for another time and place when the two had shared a meal with his brother, when the three had laughed heartily at bad jokes and good wine and a mother’s love as his mother served up a feast of a meal. That time was gone, only a memory that would fade into the dust of time.

The old man sighed, then finished the wine. He decided it was time to go West finally to the sun’s setting and catch a wave off to Avalon. He stood up, dropped his pipe into his pocket and strolled off to the park. He’d hitch a ride the next morning.

In the dark and under a tree nearby, his older son watched his father. He started to call out, but something stopped him. He just couldn’t do it. So he turned and headed back to the farm. He had cows to milk early the next morning.

Near 500 words: Joshua in Charge

Recently I read the Book of Joshua in the The Old Testament. It inspired this story.

After Moses died, Joshua was put in charge of the Israelites. He’d been around since Egypt and he’d never given Moses any lip. It was always “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir” and “How high, Sir?” He was a Libra and he could charm the pants off the most rebellious Israelite. On top of that, he put on the best shows. His “Forty Years in the Wilderness Without Any Pants (‘Cause Guys Wear Dresses)” was a real hoot of a musical.

So God knew He had His guy when Moses suggested Joshua would be perfect for the job. Joshua wasn’t so sure.

“Why don’t you go with Caleb?” Joshua suggested.

“You know how he is. He’ll go off and shoot himself in the foot. No, you’re My guy.”

“I’ll give it a try but–”

“I have just the thing. Roll up your sleeve, Josh.”

“What for, Sir?

“I’m going to give you a shot of self confidence.”

“You know I don’t like needles.”

“There. Did that hurt?”

“A little bit.”

“Let me kiss it and it’ll be all better.”

“Well, okay. Do I get a lollypop?”

God kissed the boo-boo, then handed Joshua two lollypops.

“My favorites,” Joshua said. “Root beer and Wild Strawberry. Yummy.”

After a late night with the Almighty, Joshua went back to camp. He gathered everybody and said, “I have some good news, and I have some bad news.”

“What’s the good news?” Levi called out.

“The good news is we’re going to kick some Canaanite butt.”

“Aw right,” the crowd cheered.

Never one to take good news well, Judah shouted, “So what’s the bad news?”

“It’s not really bad,” Joshua holding back.

“C’mon,” Levi said. “We can take it. After all, what can be worse than the manna we’ve been eating for forty years. We’re ready for some of that milk and honey.”

“Yeah,” Reuben yelled. “Especially that honey part.”

“Okay, guys,” Joshua said. “You asked for it. We have to let our pee pees go.”

Boos went through the crowds. If this had been a movie, the soundtrack would have been playing Bob Dylan and “Everybody must get stoned.” Them Israelites had rocks in their hands and they were ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

“C’mon, fellas,” Joshua pleaded. “It’s for a good cause. After all, there are no free rides.”

“I knew there had to be a catch,” Judah said. “After all, it’s Friday the 13th. On top of that, it’s a full moon.”

“Yeah,” Reuben grimaced, “But circumcision. That’s gonna hurt.”

“So who’s going to do the deed?” Levi wanted to know. Not happy but still he was a Levite. And Levites were God’s Guys.

Joshua hesitated, then said really slow-like, “Brad.”

“Brad!” Judah, Levi and Reuben let out. “Not Brad.”

A roar went out from the crowd like an echo, “Not Brad.”

“He’s the only one with a knife,” Joshua said. “The rest of you have swords. And I gotta tell you, ain’t nobody going to take a sword to my…well, you know.”

“But Brad is blind as a bat,” Reuben said.

“And cross-eyed to boot,” Judah added.

“The Almighty’s got you covered on those two things,” Joshua said. “Brad’s got glasses now.”

“But what if he misses?” Reuben asked. “Even with glasses?”

“Let’s just say you’ll be eunuch,” Joshua said, then, “I’m going to need some of you guys to volunteer for trumpet lessons. We’re going to have a big performance at Jericho.”

Living Room Story: What the camera didn’t see

This one came after I went through an book of old photographs.

That summer at the farm was a perfect summer for the Davises. The camera stood waiting for one last photograph before the family headed back to the city for their winter life.

The camera saw the mother. Hope stepped through the front screen door and onto the porch. She took her place in the large wicker chair. She smiled at the camera’s eye, radiating the look of someone who had found the secret of happiness.

The camera saw Marty step behind her, a tall, lanky kid soon to be in his senior year in high school. He placed his long, thin hands onto his mother’s shoulders. She reached up and squeezed one of them.

The camera saw Marty’ sister, Grace, slide up beside her brother, wearing her engagement ring, thinking of the wedding to come. Standing there in her soft summer dress, she gave the camera a wink.

The camera saw Richard, the oldest son, join the others behind their mother. In his lieutenant’s uniform, he had that all-American look of promise that said he could accomplish anything he set his mind to.

George, the father, walked out onto the porch and sat down on the porch steps beside his wife. He looked around at his family and the camera saw the pride on his face. He was on his way to becoming the Ted Turner of laundromats, having inherited one from his father and turning it into five.

But the camera didn’t see Hope’s breast cancer and her death two years later. The camera didn’t see the knife plunged into Marty’s gut as he tried to stop a convenience store robbery. The camera didn’t see Grace’s three divorces and then her suicide from an overdose of sleeping pills. The camera didn’t see the bullet chasing Richard in the jungles of Vietnam.

The camera didn’t see an older George in a run-down motel, sitting on the side of the bed. He was left with only with an empty wallet, a half bottle of scotch and a cough that won’t go away. His accountant had embezzled him into bankruptcy.

And the camera didn’t see that time in the future when the family gathers for another perfect summer.