Near 500 words: TW and the Postcards

Episode 9 of The Writer

“A horse. My spirit animal is a horse,” TW (aka The Writer) said, floating a foot off the floor in the arms of his wife, Sylvia.

With that, he returned to the present, dropping the carving on the floor. It was hot. Beside it was the mustang Sylvia finished carving the night before she left. Why had he left it in the box? Why hadn’t he left it where he could see it? Mostly because he wanted to forget.

And mostly he had forgotten. About once a year, a postcard came in the mail. He picked up the postcards and the other things and dropped them back inside the box and put the lid back on.As far as he was concerned, there was no use crying over spilled milk. She was gone and that was it.

Oh sure, he dated from time to time. Except for Helen, none of the relationships took.  He went to Helen’s wedding and then settled into his solitary way of life. As far as being lonely, he never thought much about it.

Then the robin appeared outside his house. Why?

He wasn’t sure why he did it, but he lifted the lid off again. He reached inside the box and picked up Sylvia’s postcards and put them in chronological order, the oldest on top. He looked at the oldest. A picture of Timbuktu on one side and a short note on the other. It was signed Helen. Under her beautiful script was a line of text that looked like Arabic calligraphy.

The next year the postcard was from Egypt. The pyramids and the note and the same calligraphy below her name. Then a third postcard. Jerusalem and the calligraphy again. Next was Petra, then the Parthenon, then whirling dervishes. Hagia Sophia was on the following postcard. On and on they went, each from a holy place. And each one carried the calligraphy below her signature.

Why didn’t he recognize the script below her name? It looked familiar and yet strangely unfamiliar.

Suddenly he was hungry. And not just hungry. He was famished. From the kitchen, Cat was meowing, giving the signal that she too was hungry.

“Okay, okay,” he called out to Cat. “I’m coming.”

He dropped the postcards onto the carpet, then headed for the kitchen. Outside the sun was setting. “When did it get so late?”

He reached into the cat’s food box and pulled out her food and poured the kibbles into her bowl. Absentmindedly.

For the next hour, he felt like he was sleepwalking, his mind elsewhere, as he prepared his food, watched the news and ate. Quickly he washed the dishes, then went back to the box and the postcards.

Year by year he laid the cards out on the table. First he laid them out with the photographs facing upward. They made a beautiful collage of color and images. He sat for over an hour, admiring them. Then he turned the cards over. He checked the postmark. All were dated the first week in April.

Then it hit him. One was missing.

 

Autobiographicles Please

You’ve heard of the Tea Party? You know the thing Alice did with the Mad Hatter? Now c’mon. Not that kind of thing. Get your mind out of the gutter. They had tea. Lately I have been thinking about having me a Me Party.

You see I am three people in one. A Me, a Myself and an I. It’s time I let one of them loose to celebrate. So I am starting with Me. This Me Party will celebrate the Wit and Wisdom of Uncle Bardie’s Me self and will kick off the publication of “Me: The Autobiographical Uncle Bardie”. For those who can’t get enough of Uncle Bardie, there will come a sequel, “More of Me”, then a sequel of a sequel, “Most of Me”. Who knows where it will end? There might even be an “Uncle Bardie’s Magical Mystery Tour”.

All the greats and the near-greats and the not-so-greats and the none-too-greats get to extoll their virtues and their sins in memoirs these days. Why not Uncle Bardie? It is only fair to my multitude of fans. Though I have nothing to say about life, I figure I can say it better than all the others with nothing to say. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to those with inquiring minds if I didn’t. In fact, it would be downright cruel. Uncle Bardie, being a kind man, would never commit cruelty knowingly.

So where to begin? How about at the beginning. I can think of no better place.

I was born on a dark and stormy night in the best of times, in the worst of times. My mama was going to call me Ishmael but that name had been taken by some feller name of Melville. Like Abe Lincoln, I was born in a log cabin. Not actually a log cabin but it sounds better than a trailer park. When I say that, it makes me sound like some kind of Honey Boo Boo. We weren’t trailer trash but my mama sure knew what to do with the garbage. That was why we had a big green dumpster down the way from our trailer.

I was born on the cusp of Virgo and Libra. In other words, my Virgo was slanting into Libra. Guess that makes me a bi-cuspid. There are days when my Virgo gets out of hand and I want to study a problem to death. Other days the only fight I want to participate in is a food fight. Then I want to make sure that everyone in the fight gets at least one pie in the face. Anything to be fair.

The first word out of my mouth was “y’all”. Before I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my mama had me saying, “Y’all come back, you hear?” Like good old Abe, I walked uphill to school five miles, then I walked five miles uphill to get home. I know Abe may not have done that but it sure sounds good on my resume. And who am I to call Abe a liar? You can, if you want. That is your prerogative. Next thing you’ll be saying is that Abe didn’t lick them vampires. At least, Abe read books, which is more than we can say for some presidents.

Early on, I spent a lot of my time curling up into a feeble position. Then I became an introvert who overcompensated. I learned to twerk at an early age. It was my way of mooning the world. As I grew older, I did my best to nip it in the butt. But, as you can see, it didn’t take.

Guess Seinfeld was right. There’s a whole lot of nothing that can be said about nothing and still say nothing. And this is only the first chapter. Just think. This could go on for nine seasons and you’d still have nothing. Makes me want to rejoice in the nothing that is not there and do it nada-istically.

Talk about adverbs. That’s one heck of an adverb. Nada-istically.

If you were writing your memoir, what would its theme be?

High School Friends

Last week a friend left us. A very close friend. Yesterday I went to his funeral. His two brothers and so many other family and friends were there. He was a deeply spiritual person. One of a few I have known. He will be missed by all who knew him. I still haven’t gathered my thoughts of him enough to write how much he meant to me.

I originally planned to post another humor piece. But it seems so inappropriate today. Instead I am posting another piece. It is a piece I had posted several years ago on another blog in galaxy far away. Something autobiographical, which I don’t usually do here. It honors three friends I had in high school, three friends who changed my life.

Perhaps sometime in the future I may be able to set my memories of my friend down and post them. But today I would like to post this to honor all those who have loved and nurtured and cared about me as I worked my way to this particular time in my life.

It was early 1964, Fort Worth, Texas, JFK had just been assassinated a few months earlier. My family and I had just moved across town from Northside to Poly. I was in the tenth grade and I was a very insecure lonely kid. I don’t think I had one friend at Northside High School. How I survived that loneliness, that insecurity, I am not sure. I was out of my element there for the thirteen weeks or so I attended the school. I don’t know what got me through. Thank God for a wonderful imagination and lots of daydreaming and good books. Thank God for Euripides and Sophocles. Thank God for some damned good science fiction.

Then I moved to Polytechnic High with low expectations. In those days, my mother, my stepfather, my half-sister and I were a churchgoing folk. We found a church there in Poly. Church was the one place I felt home in those days. I began my usual habit of Sunday School and church services each Sunday. That first Sunday a tall blond haired kid a year older than me invited me to a baseball game the next Saturday afternoon. Not being a sports fellow I almost said no. I said okay instead.

That first Saturday afternoon baseball with the tall fellow from church changed my life. Until that moment in my history I had felt that I didn’t matter an iota. I had always been religious but I kept asking where are you, God. How come you made such an introvert, so insecure, so lonely. I am here to tell you that first Saturday changed my life. That tall blond-haired kid saw me and saw me for who I was and still cared about me. Cared about me a lot. Made me a part of a special gang of three friends, all a year older than me.

David was the tall blond haired kid. Bobbie Ann played cello and lived alone with her mother. She was more the mother and her mother was the daughter. Warren knew philosophy and religion and we spent a lot of late nights discussing life on other planets, speculating how and when we would make contact. He was into drama and taught me to love live theater. He also introduced me to Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde.” Bobbie Ann and Warren were dating.

For the next two years, the four of us were inseparable. David would show up at my house on Saturday morning and say, “Wanna go for a ride?” Of course, I wanted to go for a ride. Who wouldn’t want to go for a ride? Off I went, my mother entrusting me to my friends’ care, knowing I was in good hands. It would be Sunday night when next I walked through the front door. Many weeknights I was over at Bobbie Ann’s or B. A. as we called her, listening to music, playing games, just talking, talking about everything.

If I can dance at all, and I can’t dance, I learned it from David. We would be at a church dance and he would say to his girl friend of the moment, “Go dance with Don. He has two left feet but it’s okay. He’s a good learner. You’ll like it.” When you are a clumsy sixteen year old everybody sees as four-eyes, that can send you into the heavens. When I say David had a girl friend of the moment, I don’t mean he threw girl friends off as soon as he used them. He didn’t. He was always a perfect gentleman and ended his relationships with girls as friends. The thing was when David walked into a room the girls would go “ah.” He was drop dead handsome. But he had one hell of a kind heart.

My first date was with B.A. She had broken up with Warren six months earlier and we went to see Doctor Zhivago together. Afterward we went back to her apartment and she gave me a dancing lesson. It was her first year of college and I’m sure she was struggling with what she wanted out of life. The breakup with Warren hurt a lot. She smiled at me that night as she always smiled at me, one of the warmest smiles I can ever remember. She was my first love and I was out of my league, just a clumsy kid searching for a future.

Bobbie Ann had this VW Bug. A bunch of us would crawl into that thing and speed along on our way to wherever, just happy to be with each other. There was no better place in the world to be than to drive down to the Dairy Queen on Sunday night and have a banana split. One night the four of us and others were at a party. As a joke, Warren, David and I lifted that VW Bug and sat it in the waterless swimming pool. Where’s my bug? Bobbie asked. We don’t know. Of course, we did. When she found it, all she did was laugh.

Warren would regale me with tales of Broadway shows he had seen. Once a year he and his family were off to New York City. But when it came to discussing things that matter he always treated me as an equal. He introduced me to writers like Kierkegaard and Camus, to philosophers like Augustine and the poetry of Dante.

I graduated from high school, more comfortable in my own skin than I had thought possible two years earlier. I was still seventeen and searching. I went to a trade school sponsored with government money and finally got a job working in the warehouse at Montgomery Ward. That September, I turned 18. I signed up for the draft, but I didn’t wait for the postcard. I volunteered for the Air Force like my two older brothers. I was inducted on St. Patrick’s Day, 1967. it was right smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam War and I just knew that if I went in the Army there was a Viet Cong with a bullet with my name on it.

It was March 16, 1967 and it was evening. We were sitting in front of the television watching Cronkite relay the latest news of Vietnam and Bobbie Kennedy and the latest NASA story. There was a knock at our front door.

“Go see who’s at the front door, Donald,” my mother called from the kitchen.

“Oh, do I have to,” I said and picked myself off the couch and opened the front door. There stood David with his big smile. Bobbie Ann and Warren were behind him and several others. I was shocked. “Why are you here?” I gasped.

“To see you off in proper style,” David smiled and pushed himself through the door and past me. It was one hell of a sendoff.

That was the last I saw of these three friends together. When I came home on leave after basic training, David and I went out to eat a couple of times. He told me about his life and I told him how scared I was. We laughed. Warren had joined a traveling theater troupe. He was in some place in California. The last I saw him was when he directed “Christ in the Concrete City.” I never saw B. A. again. Some years later someone at church told me she joined the Air Force and became a flight controller.

A lot of years have passed. Have made some efforts to contact the three. But never have made contact. Who knows? One of these days. Of that friendship, I wrote this poem:

First snow

The wind resonates purring
soon to be clawing and biting,
chill crackles the air,
and automobile engines chatter
on this night icy and cold
from the year’s first snow;
Bobbie Ann and David, Warren,
Susie and I, we band of five
inseparably cloister against
the meowing on its prowl,
scratching, raking its talons
against the side of the house.
And then the calm.
The snow calls
us from our stories, songs and games
to frolic in a niveous wonderworld
where we and other neighborhood kids
friskily pack and splatter
white balls of algidity while
missiles of ice hiss past.
A crash in the ear, a blast on the skin,
an ouch! and we slosh our retreat
to Bobbie Ann’s house,
hot chocolate and snow ice cream.