A Job Well Done

It was around ten p.m. when L L pulled up into his driveway and stopped under the carport. Eighteen hours of work and he was finally home. He breathed a sigh of relief, then listened to the Beatles finish up with “Eight Days a Week” on the CD player. That was how he felt. That he’d worked eight days a week. He turned off the ignition and crawled out of the car.

He walked over to the garbage bin. Somehow it had been thrown on its side. Probably some neighborhood kid. Normally he would yell and scream at the street and the kids but he was just too tired. He stuck the key into the back door of the house, turned it and entered, then punched the code into the security keyboard.

“It’s just me,” he called out. His eyes were still adjusting to the dark house. He saw his beautiful two-year-old Russian Blue sitting under the doorframe from the kitchen into the dining room.

She was wary and a little anxious. She still wasn’t sure it was L L. But it sounded like him. If it had not been L L, she would have run for cover into one of her hiding places. And she had hiding places that had hiding places.

L L turned on the light, saw the cat’s empty bowl. “Geez, you must be hungry. I’m sorry,” he apologized to the cat. And this was unusual for L L. He never apologized to anyone. Except to his Russian Blue.

He had taken the cat in after she crawled up into the engine of his car. She had been six weeks old. He had run into Costco for just a few minutes. When he came out, there was a group standing around his car. He asked a woman, “What’s going on?”

“There’s a cat in this car. It’s trying to get out and can’t.”

He popped the hood open. A kid in the crowd reached inside the engine with his small hands and pulled the cat free. Then he handed her to L L. From her cries, it was obvious she was hungry. And scared.

L L wasn’t sure he should take the cat. He didn’t have time for a cat. He wasn’t sure what to do.

The woman next to him took the cat and put it into a small box. And handed the box back to L L. “I think you’ve found yourself a new friend.”

L L wanted to resist but he didn’t. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t in control of things. He wasn’t sure he liked it. He looked down at the box, the cat peaking her head outside the box.

“There’s a pet store nearby. You can get her some kitty food there.”

Keeping the box top closed, he drove straight the store, ran in and bought the food, then drove straight home. All that time the cat didn’t stop crying out its fear and its hunger. He sat the box on the kitchen counter. Took the bottle with the liquid out of the bag. Reached into the box. Took the tiny thing out. Holding her, he put the nipple into her mouth and she started sucking. She wasn’t crying anymore. L L still wasn’t sure about the kitten but it was obvious the thing was going to need him. “Well, we’ll give it a try.”

Two years later he filled the cat bowl with salmon pate. She ran to the bowl and began scooping up the food. As she did, he stroked her back. Then filled her water bowl. When she finished eating, she rubbed up against L L’s leg as he heated water.

The kettle whistled. He poured out the water over the tea in his cup. He grabbed a bag of chocolate chips and headed to the living room and some me time.

He sat down, ate his cookies and drank his tea. Slowly. The cat jumped up onto his lap, looked up into his face with her beautiful green eyes, crawled up on his chest and rubbed her face against his chin. Then she curled up on his lap and fell asleep. Except for the snoring cat, there wasn’t another sound in the house.

Sitting there in his large comfy chair with the cat on his lap, he looked down at the Russian Blue and smiled. “Well, I finally did it. It’s taken me years, but I finally got rid of Superman, Kryptonite.”

Advertisements

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: There’s Giants in Them There Hills

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “The BFG” (2016):

Many Never-Neverland stories begin with an orphan: Tom Jones (the character, not the singer), Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, Pip, Peter Pan, Mowgli, Dorothy Gale, Tarzan, Snow White, Superman, Batman, Harry Potter. And so is Sophie, the young heroine, in “The BFG”.

Sophie wakes up one night in the orphanage. Curiosity drives her to one of the orphanage windows. She sees a giant. And not just any giant but a Big Friendly Giant. The BFG kidnaps Sophie. He is afraid Sophie will tell the world that she saw a giant. He can’t imagine that no one will believe a child.

The BFG carries her to his home in the land of the giants. She is told that she can never leave but must stay with him for the rest of her life. Since he collects dreams, he gives her a nightmare. She will be eaten by another giant if she escapes. Unlike his fellow giants, he isn’t a monster. He just wants to keep the world from finding out that there are giants.

When she wakes the next morning, one of the other giants, a people eater, shows up at BFG’s door. He smells human and he gives things a good looksee over. Nope, no humans here. He leaves, scratching his head. That night she goes out with BFG to collect and distribute dreams. Out of this unlikely beginning, a wonderful friendship.

Stephen Spielberg directed this one with a screenplay by Melissa Mathison. She contributed the screenplay to “E.T.” So it’s easy to understand why this one has a certain e-t-ish quality to it. The two of them have taken a bit of “The Iron Giant”, thrown in some “Mary Poppins” and a smidgen of “The Wizard of Oz” and come up with “The BFG”.

Unfortunately, Melissa Mathison died of cancer shortly after the film was completed. What a wonderful gift she gave us to remember her by.

The Magician’s Assistant

It’s Halloween and time to celebrate. So here’s a Halloween story.

Brooks and Frank were not brothers although others thought they could be. No one could remember them when they were not together. Brooks was a magician; Frank was a fireman. Or at least, he liked to dress up as a fireman.

Brooks was often on stage, showing the world his trick of sawing a fireman in half. Usually magicians saw a woman in half, Brooks sawed Frank in half. People loved the trick. Frank showed up on the stage and Brooks introduced him to the box. Frank wore his fireman’s uniform. Once Frank was in the box safe and secure, Brooks set the box on fire. Then the sawing began.

Frank always thought of himself being like the one the knife thrower threw the knives at. It took steady nerves to stand there and let those knives come at you. He thought that the knife thrower’s partner could dodge bullets if she had to. She had that kind of concentration. So he worked on his concentration.

All was well and good for quite some time. Then it happened. It happened just as Brooks and Frank became a sensation and started to fill larger venues. Frank met Darla.

Darla was a tall, slender dark-haired beauty with only one ambition. She had spent years wanting to be a magician’s assistant. She saw Brooks on stage. She just knew what he needed. He needed Darla to hand him the saw. It was a matter of faith. Every magician needed a Darla.

One night during the show, Darla walked onto the stage. She had the saw in her hands. She lifted it above her head. Then she handed the saw to Brooks.

At first surprise, Brooks was taken aback. How dare this woman interrupt his performance. When he heard the applause, he changed his mind. As the three of them walked off the stage, Brooks whispered to his new assistant, “I can’t pay you much.”

Darla just smiled. She was happy her dream had come true.

Frank took one look at Darla and he was smitten. Cupid aimed his arrow, and kwhack, it hit Frank in the heart.

For several performances, the act went on perfectly. Brooks introduced the box. Frank walked out onto the stage in his fireman’s costume and crawled into the box. Brooks locked the box. Darla brought out the fire starter and set the box on fire. Then she raised the saw above her head. And the trick went off without a problem.

Frank couldn’t keep his love to himself. One night just before a performance, he walked up to Darla and whispered, “I love you.”

Well, Darla was having none of this love thing. She knew it could blow a good act. She had seen other acts go up in flames because of the jealousy. So she let her partner-in-crime know she wasn’t interested in a gentle sort of way.

Frank walked onto stage with tears in his eyes. He crawled into the box like always. Darla set the box on fire. Brooks took the saw from her hands. Things were going well just like usual. But Frank couldn’t concentrate. He just couldn’t concentrate.

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: I am a human being

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the movie, “The Elephant Man” (1980):

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” These are the words of John Merrick (John Hurt). He is so deformed he becomes known as the Elephant Man. He is a side show freak when Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkns), a surgeon at London Hospital, discovers him. David Lynch’s film is the story of Merrick and Treves’ friendship.

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” Mistreated most of his life, Merrick blossoms under the care of Treves. Treves discovers that despite his deformity Merrick holds no enmity toward any one. It turns out that he is quite intelligent and kind. Unbelievably kind and gentle.

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” With his life, John Merrick teaches that it is not appearance that matters. It is the person inside. When the curtain of cruelty and unkindness is ripped away, John Merrick’s light shines brightly.

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” As Merrick comes out of his shell, Treves is changed as well. Merrick gives Treves his soul back.

“My life is full. I know that I am loved.” These too are John Merrick’s words. “The Elephant Man” is a masterpiece and a tribute to the humanity that was John Merrick.

Book Review: A wonderful bit of writing 

I want to thank Beth of I didn’t have my glasses on for calling my attention to Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume.

Opening lines of a novel or a short story are always an invitation. Some opening lines are so oft-putting, you just know that a visit with the folks in this house is not going to be worth the effort. Or the time.

A good opening is a Welcome mat that invites you into the story. It says, “C’mon in and sit a spell. You’re sure to have a mighty fine time.” Sara Baume opens her novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither with these words:

He is running, running, running.

And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoofrucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down down. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock.

Those are the words of Ray, a 57 year old man in this first person account. He lives alone in a coastal Irish village in the house he inherited from his father. He has only the memories of his father to keep him company. He’s “too old for starting over, too young for giving up” (p. 12). He rescues a one-eyed dog he names One Eye. They are both outcasts, the man and the dog.

When Ray goes to the grocer to buy some food, he reflects:

The grocer’s girl, April, talks loudly on the telephone as she scans my goods, forgetting to proffer a paper bag. I’ve always imagined April was born in April and has three sisters called May, June and July, perhaps an only brother called December because if the summer is a woman, so the winter much be a man. (p.23)

As Ray and One Eye bond, the man takes on a dog’s eye view of his world.

Now the food bowl is the epicenter of your existence, to which the house is attached, and everything beyond radiates from, like sun beams. (p.36)

On a walk with One Eye, Ray comments:

I wish I’d been born with your capacity for wonder. (p.41)

Then this:

Now you are my third leg, an unlimping leg, and I am the eye you lost. (p.43)

And there is a joy Ray experiences when he lets One Eye run free in a field outside the village.

You wag your tail. This is the first time I’ve seen you wag your tail. “GOOD BOY!” I yell. (p.48)

One day, while Ray and One Eye go walking, the dog attacks a collie. Ray finally gets One Eye to let go. The collie runs away with its female owner it chasing him. Ray takes One Eye home and hides in the house, afraid of what may happen next. After a while, Ray and One Eye continue their walks. They go out at dawn and find places where they can walk and not have a repeat of the incident with the collie.

Then it happens again. One Eye goes after a shih tzu. Ray retreats back into his house. He is afraid of losing One Eye. The local warden comes for the dog. “A complaint’s been made.” How Ray responds to that complaint drives the rest of the novel.

The friendship that grows between the animal and the human is chronicled in detail in Sara Baume’s beautiful novel. For the first time in each’s life, they have a friend. As I read, I was completely pulled in, not only by the language, but also by the character study of Ray, revealing his rich inner life.

Not only does he open up his perceptions of the world to One Eye. There is also a running dialogue about his dead father. So strong is his memories that it can be said Ray’s father is the third of three major characters.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a book that you will remember long after you put it down. One thing is for sure. Sara Baume has created one of the most moving novels I have ever read. And, in case you’re wondering, Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a mondegreen for Spring Summer Fall Winter.

Sara’s second novel, A Line Made By Walking, is out. From the reviews on Amazon, looks like she has a winner with it as well. It will be interesting to follow this writer five, ten, twenty years down the road to see where she leads her readers.