Near 500 words: The Clothing Store on San Miguel Street

Janet was named after her grand mama. Aida was named after the woman in the opera. They had been friends since high school. When she was forty, Janet’s husband left her for a slut named Helen just like Helen ran off with that slut, Paris. Her husband got the clap and murdered Helen. Janet got a divorce and went to work.

Aida lost her husband to cancer when she was sixty. She needed something to occupy her spirit. She could have taken up with the church. But she was not the praying kind. So she bought a clothing store on San Miguel Street and went equal partners with her friend. “Fifty-fifty,” she said when she made the suggestion to Janet.

Their families warned them. Anywhere else but San Miguel Street. San Miguel Street was a part of the worst part of town.

Janet and Aida had faith. They left the door open. If someone wanted to take their money, they would surrender the cash with a smile. They didn’t have much and it wasn’t worth losing their lives over. Besides they liked the people there.

They opened the shop at eight sharp. Not a minute earlier or a minute later. The neighborhood could set their clocks by it. Day in, day out, the two women sat in the doorway, waiting for someone to drop by. And people did.

One morning Senora Alicia came by. “I need a hat for my son’s wedding. Do you have a hat for me?”

“Of course,” Aida said. She went back into the store and over to the hat stand and pulled down a bonnet all decked out with flowers. “I think this one will do.”

Senora Alicia tried it on. She looked in the mirror. She smiled. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”

“And it fits snug,” Aida said.

“Yes, it does.” Then Senora Alicia laughed.

“You’re going to be the hit of the wedding,” Aida assured her customer.

Senora Alicia’s face went serious. “How much is it?” She was afraid she could not afford it.

“No charge. It’s a wedding present.”

“Oh, I have to give you something.”

“You already have. You came to our shop for a hat.”

Senora Alicia handed Janet the hat. Janet took it and sat it on the counter. She went in the back room and brought out a lovely box and gently sat the hat into the box. Then she tied the box up with a pink ribbon and handed the box to Senora Alicia.

“Would you like a cup of tea and a cookie?” Aida offered.

“I would love a cup of tea and a cookie.” Of course, she wanted a cup of tea and a cookie. The cookies were notorious in the neighborhood. Some of the kids thought they were magic cookies because people were always happy after they ate one.

The women sat in the chairs in front of the store. For several hours, they laughed and cried and had a good time. Aida told her stories. Senora Alicia shared her worries about her son. Janet listened. Aida’s stories and the love Senora Alicia had for her son filled her up to the brim with happiness.

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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.”

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.