Signs

Chester was a believer in signs. He lived his life by them. He believed it was the gods’ way of speaking to him.

He always came to a full stop at a stop sign. He followed the directions of a turn sign if he was in its lane. He might be in the wrong lane. The sign might take him out of his way if he made the turn. Still he followed the directions. Signs were his life.

He followed a sign as to what career path he would follow. He had once wanted to be an artist. His mother and a sign nixed that. First his mother suggested his best course in life was the law. That had been seconded by the sign of a law book he almost tripped over getting to class. Later he sat down in the library and read the tome. He understood all the whereforths and howevers.

He picked the woman who became his wife because of a sign. In the grocery store where he shopped, he spotted Marge. She stood in front of a large sign. Above her head, it said, “This one is for you.” It didn’t matter that he saw a large can of beer below the words when she walked away. The gods were telling Chester this woman was to be his wife.

Passing by a car lot one day, he noticed a large billboard. On it was a woman pointing downward. She pointed to a red Chevy below the billboard. Even though he hated red and drove only Fords, Chester got the message. It was not his job to reason why. It was his job to follow orders. So he bought the red Chevy.

Two days later, Chester began to question the gods’ judgment. Things were not making sense. First it was the breaks. They went and rammed into a stop sign. The sign was not harmed at all. But the car had a big dent. He got the car fixed. Then the passenger door fell off. He got that fixed. After that, the front windshield cracked. The insurance covered that. When he finally decided he had enough, he took the vehicle back to the dealer.

The dealer took the car off Chester’s hands. But he demanded a price for his generosity. Chester gladly paid it. As he walked out of the dealer’s office, he saw the woman on the billboard pointing down toward a blue Cadillac. Since he loved blue and had always wanted a Cadillac, he knew that he was back on the good side of the gods. He walked right back into the office and took the car off the dealer’s hands. As he drove the Caddy off the lot, a puff of smoke came out of the tail pipe.

An associate of the dealer watched Chester and the Caddy. Then he turned to the dealer and asked, “What’s the deal with parking cars under that big sign?”

The dealer smiled. “That’s where I park the lemons.”

The associate shook his head.

“What?” the dealer asked. “You’ve never heard the saying, ‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.’ That woman is my lemonade maker.”

Advertisements

The Guitarist

Beautiful hands you have, I said to her.

Why, thank you, she said. I get them from my mother. My mother has very beautiful hands.

I reached over and took her hand in mine. I turned the hand over and looked at her palm. There were calluses on her fingers. You must be a musician? I asked her.

She nodded. A guitarist.

What kind of guitar do you play? I asked, interested.

Classical, she said, then added, John Williams style.

I would like to hear you play sometime. I really wanted to hear her play. It wasn’t just a pick-up line.

I could play now.

Please.

She got up and walked over to her guitar case. It lay against the wall. She opened the case and she brought out a beautiful guitar. She came back over and sat down beside me. The guitar on her lap showed that it had been played a great deal. This was someone who took her craft serious. I liked that. She twisted the tuning keys just a little and said, Let’s see. Then she played. She played beautifully.

At the end of her piece, I asked, Is that Vivaldi? I was trying to show that I knew at least a little about music.

Bach. I’ve been working on some of his violin pieces. Arrange them for guitar.

What do you love about Bach? I asked. I liked Bach. I just didn’t like the organ pieces. I don’t like organ. Except when it is played as support. Like some of the rock and roll bands of the sixties.

Oh, he’s so complex. There isn’t anything he can’t do.

I find Bach and Vivaldi and the other Baroque composers made music that was so peaceful. And it was such a chaotic age.

Kind of like ours, she followed up. The guitar rested on her lap. She looked into my eyes with her dark eyes.

Very much like ours. Though we do get some breaks from time to time.

Yes. There was a sadness to her eyes. The kind of sadness that comes with living a sad life.

Why are you so sad? I asked, going deeper.

Why do you say that?

There is such sadness in your eyes.

I’m sorry. I don’t think you want to explore my sadness.

I thought for a second, then I answered her, I do.

Would you like to make love to me? she asked out of the blue.

Yes. But only if we can get to know each other. It’s too early for that.

She smiled. I liked her smile. I leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips.

The Girl With the Tattoo

They kept asking about her tattoo. What the hell did it mean? Why did it have to mean anything? Terri liked it. Wasn’t that enough? Not for a lot of other folks. They were trying to figure out if she belonged to some secret cult or something. Of course not. But they didn’t take no for an answer. So she started inventing. First she raised her finger to her lips and gave them the shush. She whispered some obscure phrase she learned in her Latin class. Then she gave them the stare which made them melt like butter. That would teach them. The thing was that they did start melting like butter.

The Wednesday Afternoon Club

The four women met once a month on the first Wednesday for ten years. They sat in a circle on the wooden floor in a little shack by a lake. It was quiet outside, only the lapping of the water. A few birds sang their hearts out, celebrating spring. They were talking about their husbands. Or at least one husband. Dora’s.

“Let’s just get it over with,” Alice said.

“Now hold on,” Dora came back. “We don’t want to rush this. We have to be careful not to make a mistake.”

Each of the four women wore black. Black shoes, black pants, black blouse. And no jewelry.

“I hate this,” Maxi said.

“We all hate this,” Carol said.

“Yes,” Alice said. “We all hate this. But we have to do it. It’s what we do. So let’s get on with it.”

The others agreed. Each time the four met, they picked a husband to do a murder on. It was a game that ran all the way back to the first time they met. It would be more fun than just gossiping.

They never actually did the murder. Something always came up. Maxi might say, “It was Tuesday, and you know how Tuesdays are.” The others would shake their heads in agreement.

Or Carol might say, “I planned it for Friday and he brought me a dozen roses. How could I kill him on a day he brought me roses?”

The excuses were just as infinite as were the methods used for the crime.

“Are we sure Dora will do it this time?” Maxi was the oldest. Her hair was gray, almost white. She looked over at Alice.

“I was there when the police came,” Dora said, affirming what the other three already knew.

“Yes,” Maxi offered. “I saw them take Mrs. Sullivan away in the police car.”

“But it really wasn’t her fault,” Dora continued. “Her husband drove her to it.”

“Good riddance, I say,” Carol pointed out the obvious.

“The only question is how do we do it.” Maxi straightened her pants. “We know who. We just don’t know how.”

Usually the who was obvious. It was always the what. They had to do it without getting caught. Sometimes that was hard. Very hard.

Late in the afternoon, Dora walked through her front door. There was Jack with his head buried in the newspaper.

“Hello, Dear,” he said without looking up.

Dora leaned over and kissed the top of Jack’s head.

“Did you have a good time?” he mumbled, absent-mindedly reading his paper.

“Yes, Dear.” Dora sat down across from her husband. She slipped off her shoes. “We did. We discussed how I was going to murder you. We decided poison would be best.”

“That’s nice. What’s for supper?”

The true believer

Kathy dons her baseball cap, pushing her ponytail through the hole in the back. It’s a Cub’s hat and she’s proud to wear it. She was a Cub’s fan even when the Cubs made losing an art. Now people don’t laugh the way they used to. Boy, did they laugh.

She goes through the front door, ready for her evening walk through the neighborhood. “Go, Cubs,” her neighbor yells.

“Right,” she says to herself. “I remember your catcalls and boos and thumbs-down and your slamming my team. I remember it all from the days when the Cubs were in the Wilderness. Now they’ve entered the Promised Land.” But she doesn’t say anything out loud. She just smiles, knowing she has had the last laugh, knowing her faith overcame everything.