Near 500 words: Frank’s Day

Frank was excited. His mother was taking him to the fair. He was seven years old and he had heard a lot about the fair from his friend Gina. His friend, Roger, too. Now it was his turn. His mother was excited for him as well.

The first thing Frank discovered about the fair. It was alive with noises, and they were happiness noises. Then there were the colors that filled his eyes with brightness and variety. And the smells of popcorn.

Gina told him about the horses and he just knew he wanted to ride them and there they were, on the carousel. And they made music. Frank loved the music.

He pulled at his mother’s dress. “Can I? Can I?”

“We have to buy a ticket,” his mother answered him.

He could hardly wait. He was so excited. It was like the times he needed to piss in his pants and thought he would die if he had to wait. Of course, he didn’t die, and he didn’t die waiting on the ticket.

His mother lifted him onto the white stallion and she got on the black mare beside him. Then the carousel took off. Up and down it went. And it went up and down some more. And the music played. Frank was in heaven. But like most things Frank loved, such as chocolate cake and hot cocoa, heaven came to an end.

It was such a short ride. Frank wanted to ride for a thousand miles like Genghis Khan and his mongol hordes he had read about. But his mother insisted they try something else.

She insisted, “You’re going to love cotton candy as much as I do.”

He did love cotton candy as soon as he had some. It was like eating a cloud.

“Now we’re going to ride the ducks,” his mother said, as she grabbed her son’s hand.

“You can ride ducks?” Frank asked. Then he saw it. Giant white ducks at the pier of a lake.

And then it was the biggest surprise of his birthday. Gina and Roger ran past him, yelling, “Frank, Frank.”

Frank joined his two best friends in one of the ducks. The moms of Gina and Roger joined Frank’s mother and got into the duck with their kids. The gondolier guided the duck away from the dock as his passengers jabbered away. Then he sang at the top of his lungs “The Quack Song”. Soon his passengers joined him with their singing.

Across the lake the duck and its gondolier carried the six. As they pulled up to the dock, a young man grabbed each of their hands and said, “Welcome to the Land of the Unicorns”.

The six stepped onto the dock. The kids were all excited. “Unicorns, unicorns,” they sang in unison. Into a large tent they went. On the sides of the tent, a movie projected. It was the Unicorn Story. Everybody went “ahhhh” when they saw the giant white creatures with their large orange horn running like the great steeds they were once upon a time.

When the day was done, Frank kneeled at the side of his bed. His dad kneeling on one side and his mom on the other. Frank prayed, “Thank you, God, for the best day ever.”

His parents tucked their son into bed and snapped off the light and said, “Good night, Son. We love you.”

That night Frank dreamed of friends and unicorns and horses and giant ducks with gondoliers singing “The Quack Song”.

Near 500 words: The Singer

Clara wakes up happy. I know this is not a good way to start a story. I’m supposed to have the main character in distress or at least thinking about distress. But the thing is. Clara is happy.

She is so happy she wants to sing it to the world. And sing it to the world she is going to do. She has a recording contract.

Her gray eyes and her smile show just how happy she is. She had been with her manager all day the previous day choosing songs to take to her producer.

Clara is tired. She has gotten only a little sleep. Her excitement kept her awake most of the night. Her day has finally arrived and she is going to sing for the world.

It is early when she wakes.

Finally, you’re getting somewhere with the story. Clara is going to have an accident on the way to the studio, you’re saying.

Not true. Not true. Nothing is going to happen on the way to the studio. She is going to arrive and sing like the nightingale she was in a former life.

Once she is in the studio, her producer is not going to like the songs she has chosen.

Oh, no. He will like them just fine. You see, he’s in love with Clara. He’s in love with her voice. And he’s in love with her songs. In his mind, her songs are wonderful. They are about the life of her grandmother. She came to Israel when she was a teenager to escape the Holocaust. And escape she did. She came and worked on a kibbutz. The album will end with her grandmother’s garden. It will start off sad and end very happy.

It’s the story of Dorothy escaping to Oz and falling in love with Oz. No returning to Kansas for Dorothy. Dorothy is just fine with Oz and so is Toto. She loves Oz so much that she wants Auntie Em and her uncle to come and live with her. But it’s too late. The tornado took them and the government repossessed the farm. It wasn’t that good of afarm anyway.

The Wizard may have been a disappointment in Oz but everything is just hunky dory since Dorothy melted that witch. The munckins sang hip-hip-hooray. The citizens of Oz sang hip-hip-hooray. Even the horse of a different color sang hip-hip-hooray.

It was then that Dorothy met her Prince Charming. He was a shoe salesman. It’s amazing how many times these Cinderella stories revolve around feet.

After the war, Clara’s grandmother returned to Germany. She went to Auschwitz where her parents and her brother had died. Kansas was not the place she had loved as a young girl. So she returned to Israel and met her Prince Charming. Five kids they had. One of them was Clara’s mother. Her grandfather found in the Israel War of Independence. He fought against Nassar and his allies. While Clara’s grandmother made a home for her husband and her children.

She also made the most wonderful garden. And Clara is going to sing about that garden. That is the final song, “The Garden”. It begins with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It continues with the garden that was the Alhambra. And it ends with memories of Monet’s Garden, all metaphors for Clara’s grandmother’s garden. The last line of the last song, “Dorothy loved the Gardens of Oz.”

Central Park

“Let’s see. That’s one pastrami on rye and one steak on white. Two fries and two cokes.”

“That’s right,” Marilyn says.

Harvey finishes writing up our order. “Be right out.”

Marilyn does a thanks, then turns to me.

“So where do you want to go for the honeymoon?” She’s the planner. I am just happy to tag along. This marriage is going to be great. I can’t wait.

“I don’t know where,” I answer. I don’t.

“You always say that,” she says. “But c’mon, where do you want to go.”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to see the Rockies.”

“Me too. So there’s where we’ll go. Yellowstone?” she asks, suggesting a place. With that smile of hers, I’d go anywhere with her. How lucky can a guy be to have a smile like that for every day of the rest of our lives. Man, that is heaven.

Harvey brings our food and sets it before us like we are royalty. I don’t care who you are Harvey makes the customer feel like royalty. Even a homeless guy. Harvey is the best, I’m telling you.

I look up at Harvey and ask my question, “What do you think of Yellowstone?”

“Never been there. Never want to leave the City. Ain’t this City grand? Just grand.”

“We love the City too,” Marilyn says. “But it’s our honeymoon.”

“In that case, I’d spend my honeymoon one night in one of those fancy Fifth Avenue hotels overlooking Central Park. Take a picnic to the Park. That’s what me and Louise did forty years ago. Louise is the wife. That was some honeymoon. That lady is the best. I am a lucky man.” Then Harvey leaves Marilyn and me to our food and our plans. He has a customer to greet.

Marilyn says to me, “I like that.” Her eyes are shining and her face is all lit up. You know how it is when you’re happy. “I really like that.”

“That’s what I was thinking too,” I say, knowing that we’re never going to leave the City. The City is our home and we’re not going anywhere. Why would we want to?

We eat our food, discussing thises and thats between bites the way couples do. We’re two peas in a pod. Can there be a better life than this one.

We finish our meal, get up, pay the tab, drop a nice tip on the table for Harvey. Then we’re out the door of Harvey’s Deli. We kiss like the lovers we are, then Marilyn turns left. I go right. I head in toward Lehman’s where I work. I meet people coming out of the building. Lots and lots of people. They are crying.

There’s Frank. “Hey, Frank,” I stop him. “What’s going on?”

There are tears in Frank’s eyes. “I been here thirty years. It’s the end of the world. We’ve all been let go. I can’t believe it. Just like that.”

“Just like that?” I ask.

“Just like that. The company’s bankrupt.”

I run into the building and up to my office and my desk. There’s the pink slip. I knew things were bad but I never thought that they were this bad. I sit down at my desk, tears in my eyes.

My cell phone rings. It was Marilyn. “I heard,” she says. There is concern in her voice. “Are you alright?”

Am I alright? At this moment, I am not alright. It’s like I am drowning, trying to catch my breath. I finally get the words out. The honest words that I couldn’t tell anyone but Marilyn. “No. I don’t think so. I can’t believe it. And I had to take the morning off.”

“It’s okay,” Marilyn says. “We’re going to be okay. I’m leaving work now and I will be over in a few.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs. In front of the building.”

“One moment you’re on top of the world, the next you’re under the rubble.” That’s what Uncle Gabe used to tell me. “You don’t get those top-of-the-worlds if a lot of rubble don’t fall on you.” Then he gave me the kicker. “As long as you’ve got family and friends, there ain’t no amount of rubble that can bury you.”

I pick up my pink slip, look at it, get up from my desk. I slowly head for the elevator. It hits me. I never really wanted to be a banker in the first place. Maybe Harvey will give me a job.

I walk out onto the street and into the big, wide world before me. Marilyn runs toward me. I grab her and she gives me the biggest hug in the world. “I love you,” she says.

“I love her,” I say, kissing my girl.

“I took the rest of the day off,” Marilyn says.

I laugh. You know it’s one of those laughs you have when the weight of the world is taken off your shoulders. Marilyn laughs with me. “Then let’s get married,” I say to this woman who is the love of my life.

“In Central Park?” she asks.

“In Central Park.”