Old friends fit like comfortable shoes

Searching for my old school buddy, Wayne, I moved through the ballroom and the New Year’s Eve party crowd. I hadn’t seen him in twenty years, not since high school graduation.

Then three weeks ago he’d called me out of the blue. Said over the phone that he’d like to see me, had something to tell me, and he’d be here at this party tonight. He’d leave a ticket for me at the front door if I’d come.

I told him I’d be here and hung up. Over the days that followed, I debated. Did I want to see him again? After all, I ‘ve changed a lot since I was no longer that seventeen-year-old kid he’d hung with. We’d both been on the football team. I was a quarterback and he my receiver, and we’d done everything together. Chased the cheerleaders. Cruised in the bright red Mustang we’d fixed up. Fought in the same fights, always standing up for each other. Gone to the best parties, seeing who could out chug-a-lug the other. We were the Boomer Brothers, the toughest dudes around. Everybody said so.

Then high school was over and Wayne left town. I never found out why. I only knew that he was the restless sort, always looking for a change. The last I heard he’d gone off and joined the Army.

Finally New Year’s Eve morning, I decided I’d come to the party tonight. I made my way through the crowd, checking out the features in each face, trying to figure out if it was really him. I looked across the room and saw someone who could be Wayne. I hesitated, then headed towards the guy. A few feet away I realized that it wasn’t him.

He isn’t here. Why don’t I just leave? Though I wanted to see him, I wasn’t sure how he’d take me these days. But, over the phone, he’d sounded like he really wanted to see me. I decided to keep looking. I guess I’ll find out real soon. If he’s here, that is. I’ve looked everywhere. Where could he be?

I started moving through the sea of faces again, glancing at each one, giving each a quick once-over. Still no Wayne. I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight.

Then, a foot or so away, I saw a face, his face. I would recognize those intense, dark blue eyes anywhere. They were his eyes alright. But that couldn’t be Wayne.

I took another look at his face as I got closer to him. It was definitely my old buddy. But what had happened?

Over the phone, I hadn’t recognized his voice at first. It had changed that much. And now I understood why. But how could I ever have guessed that he had gone and done what I had done?

I ran up to him and hugged him.

“Wayne, you’re a woman too,” I said, releasing him from my hug and acknowledging our sex change operations.

“My God, John, these shoes are killing me,” he said. “When I made the change, I never realized how hard it was going to be to get decent shoes.”

Politics in America 20: Christmas in November

The trouble started five days before Election Day. It looked like there was going to be a huge turnout for the Pig Farmer from Weazel Sneeze. The sculptor at Mount Rushmore had already got out his chisel for an additional head on the great stone mountain.

Betty Sue, being Betty Sue Pudding, just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Things were going too well. That’s when you’ve got to be careful. Damned careful. Or the Grinch will come and steal all your toys. You’ve heard of pushing your luck too far. Betty Sue was about to push their luck over the cliff.

The week before the election Betty Sue went back home for a break. She had been working twenty-four seven and Big Al Fresco sent her home with, “There’s nothing else we can do. It looks like we’ve accomplished it.” He kissed her on the cheek, then watched her as she headed for the airplane, thinking, “Now there goes a woman.”

That Thursday Betty Sue woke up early like she always did. She woke up early. She was in her au naturel. She did a bit of stretching, then went into the living room and did her yoga. She was a happy camper. Soon she would be the First Lady.

She thought, “The First Lady. Can you imagine? Won’t all my high school friends be jealous?” Especially that Brandi Wine Moonglow. The bitch. Brandi Wine Moonglow had beat Betty Sue to become her high school’s head cheerleader. As we all know, there is nothing quite like high school jealousy. We carry it with us the rest of our lives. Losing to Brandi Wine had given Betty Sue a complex that ran all the way down to her toes.

Just as she went into her Salamba Sarvangasana, she started laughing. She couldn’t control her laughter. She laughed so hard she fell out of position and had to go to take a pee. It felt so good. Getting even. As she emptied her bladder, she emptied herself of all jealousy. She began to feel sorry for Brandi Wine. After all, it wasn’t her fault that Brandi Wine Moonglow was so dumb. At seventeen she got herself knocked up by the quarterback of the Weazel Sneeze Prunes. They got married. Now he’s lost his job at the factory and she weighs a good three hundred pounds. You never know how things are going to turn out, do you?

After her yoga was over, Betty Sue started twiddling her thumbs. She realized she had nothing to do. One of the Secret Service guys had fed Bessie Mae Hogg. She called Brandi Wine and reminisced about the old high school days. That took up all of fifteen minutes. Well, you’ve heard the old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” The devil was about to getting a good workout. He must have been smiling when it all came down. He might even have been saying, “Thank you, Jesus.” Christmas was about to come early for Old Scratch. There was about to be a hot time in the old town Weazel Sneeze style.

Next Week The Muffin Parade

Welcome to our town

In honor of National Poetry Month, I shall be doing my poetry thing each Sunday in April.

To Richard Hugo, whose book of essays, The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing inspired this one.

“Welcome to our town”
the sign says, and I drive on past
a woman raking leaves,
an Amelia or an Emma who lost
her husband Patrick and her only
son Samuel to one war or another,
past a mailman dropping
letters into a mailbox
letters from a Carl
off at school somewhere upstate,
he’s majoring in violin,
past a Bill or a John or a Tom
standing on his newly mown lawn
watching me drive on past kids
practicing their football moves,
kicks and passes and tackles
underneath a billboard of “Home
of the State Champion Tigers”,
past a high school, a city on a hill,
red-bricked and one-storied
in the shape of a V for Victory,
brown-eyed sons and blonde-haired daughters,
dark-skinned girls and blue-eyed lads
emerging into the sunlit afternoon,
escaping a universe of lockers,
hallways and classrooms,
past two boys on blue bicycles
dancing wheelies and a fifteen-year-old
Sara in black leotards
skateboarding off the sidewalk.
And down the street apiece
a general store and three elderly fellows,
the Willis brothers with white beards,
a third clean shaven Kevin Leroi
with a John Deere embroidered on his cap
playing dominoes and swapping stories
and raising their hands to wave at me
driving on past a small white church
with a steeple and a cemetery, its gravestones
going way back to the founders of the town,
past the town square and the memorial
to the World War II veterans felled
on Anzio and Normandy beaches
against Hitler and his Nazi war machine,
and still I drive on, homesick for another town,
past the Diary Queen and the teacher’s college
and out toward the ocean of traffic on the interstate
with another “Welcome to Our Town”
sign receding in my rearview mirror.