A Case of the Pauls

They were like bookends, the two Pauls. One on each end of my block.

Paul A. was a sixteen-year-old kid who lived with his single mother, Phyllis, in the red brick, two-bedroom house. This Paul never smiled. He wore a sullen look on his face like it was a suit of armor, his clothes rumpled as if no one in the house knew how to care for clothes. Not him. Not his mother. Most of the time he seemed angry. I called him Dark Paul.

Paul S. was at the other end of the block. He lived with both his parents and his three sisters in a two-story white house with a well trimmed lawn and a white picket fence. A curly blonde-haired kid, always smiling, eyes bluer than the sky on a clear blue sky day. A yes-sir or no-sir when I threw a question at him. Like playing catch with the kid, only with questions. Real polite, and likeable as the day is long. I referred to him as Light Paul.

Needless to say, the two Pauls did not run with each other. Paul A. was as much of a loner as anybody I have known in my seventy years. Only a couple of times did I see him with some boys. They had thug written all over them. Paul S. lived in a world where everybody was his friend.

Now the Good Book says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I try to follow that old saw best I can. It was hard though. If Paul A. passed my house, I would give the boy a smile and a good day. All he did was grunt and move on in a hurry like he had someplace to go. When Paul S. went by, he had a howdy for me and a song on his lips about how wonderful the world was.

It was a hot summer day. An August day I believe. My air conditioner had gone out early that morning. It would be the next afternoon before a technician came over to check it out. It was ninety degrees outside, eighty-five inside and getting hotter. I had the windows open for what there was of a breeze and sat in my living room with the overhead fan on.

I went out to the kitchen and stuck my head in the freezer to cool off. How refreshing that was. I was giving a good amount of thought to running myself a cold bath and soaking. Then I thought that maybe I should drive down to the senior citizens’ center. Thing was that they closed at six and I would have to come back to the house and sweat.

Oh, what the hey. I’d gotten way to use to living with all these modern conveniences. Why when I was a kid, we had no air conditioner. And there’d been times when the weather was hotter than this. So what was it with this doing without. “C’mon, man up,” I said to myself. “You’ve gotten too too soft.”

I walked out on the back porch and grabbed the cat’s water bowl. Friskers was thirsty so I took it inside and filled it, then back to the porch. I looked out in the back yard. Not a bird in sight. Even the birds were not happy about the heat.

There was a breeze on the back porch. Looked like we had some rain on its way. Then we’d get more humidity and that would make the heat sticky. For the moment I settled into my lawn chair with a glass of ice tea. Before I knew it, I was dozing off.

I woke to a crash. Coming from inside the house. Had I let Friskers inside? Sneaky cat. He always got past me. I headed inside.

“Friskers, what are you in to now?”

I walked into the living room. Before me stood one of Paul A’s thuggish friends.

“Now hold on here,” I challenged him. “What are you doing in my house?” He was bringing out the former cop in me. How dare this punk come into my house uninvited.

I turned and made for the kitchen. Before I could get to the drawer and my .38, this punk had his arms wrapped around me in a bear hug. He threw me to the ground and said, “Oh, no you don’t.”

Another beefier thug came out from my bedroom, rifling through my wallet. “Just a few bucks in here,” he said to his partner.

“You bastards,” I yelled, crumpled up on the floor. “Get the hell out of my house.”

The bear hugger kicked me in the gut. I went fetal, grasping my stomach.

“Find anything else?” hugger asked.

“Just a couple of rings and some credit cards.”

“Take them and let’s get out of here before this old codger recuperates.” Hugger kicked me again. It felt like he had broken my arm.

Beefy headed for the door. But he didn’t go no further. Before him stood Light Paul. “What the hell are you guys doing?” he demanded. Then he came through the door like he was a bull running down its prey. He hit the hugger in the gut with his fist and went to do it again. Beefy’s fist came down hard on his head.

Both Beefy and Hugger went through the front door, then I heard a noise like a two-by-four splitting. “I told you no. Leave Mr. Williams alone. But you didn’t listen.” It was the dark Paul’s voice.

Light Paul picked himself up. Dark Paul yelled, “Call the cops.”

When the police arrived, Dark Paul had scooted away, melting into the night as if he had never been there. Light Paul told them what had happened, took credit for my rescue. As the paramedics loaded me into the ambulance, he said to me, “Paul told me not to tell about him and so I’m not.”

Several days later, the nurse brought me home. As she walked me out of the car and into the house, I saw the two Pauls. watching from across the street, smiling. It seemed that the light Paul was now a little darker and the dark Paul a little lighter.

It’s Spring

Just another lyric without a tune.

Chorus:
There’s only one eight o’clock in the morning
Only one eight a.m. a day
There’s only one Saturday a week
So let the sun wash your blues away

Winter is buried
Now all dead and gone
Goodbye to the cold
That cuts to the bone

Hear rain on the roof
Pitter-pattering
Soon a daisy or two
Sprouts in the green

Chorus:
There’s only one eight o’clock in the morning
Only one eight a.m. a day
There’s only one Saturday a week
So let the sun wash your blues away

Listen to the robins
On a singing streak
Watch butterflies dance
Flowers cheek to cheek

Sparrows come making
Their nests in the trees
With branches spread wide
And lush canopies

Chorus:
There’s only one eight o’clock in the morning
Only one eight a.m. a day
There’s only one Saturday a week
So let the sun wash your blues away

Bridge:
It’s spring
I’m here to tell you
It is spring
So let the light come in

A grey squirrel dashes
Up a back yard oak
A snake slithers by
Frog crosses the porch

Blossoms a-budding
Nature’s calling card
Breathe in the spring air
Crossing the yard

Chorus:
There’s only one eight o’clock in the morning
Only one eight a.m. a day
There’s only one Saturday a week
So let the sun wash your blues away

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: The Appalachia Santa Claus Special

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 Appalachia Santa Claus Special and the folks who support it:

In these rough and tumble times, it’s always great to hear a bit of good news about our fellow Americans. So today’s Spotlight is given to you in the Christmas spirit. To shine a little light on something that reflects the holiday spirit. Here’s hoping your Hanukkah and your Christmas are wonderful. And that your New Year is the best. Blessings, my friends.

Late night meditation

It’s eleven p.m. The street is quiet.
Neighbors’ lights go out one by one
and soon the midnight hour
when only street lights shine.
In the kitchen, dishes in the sink,
an uncorked Cabernet
and a slice of wedding cake in the fridge.
Cat sprawls out on the couch.
On a chair, an open book,
a story half-unfinished,
with maps to the moon
and colored photographs.
Down the hall, the bed waits,
pillows propped two high
and clean sheets.

Mr. Reynolds and the lighthouse

Nora loved the lighthouse some few miles away from the town. She loved to go down and share a picnic with the lighthouse keeper, Reynolds Reynolds. He had tended the lighthouse since before Nora was born. Her landlady knew him. Said he had come back from the war and taken over the lighthouse.

Now he was in want for an apprentice. No one was interested in the job. It was a lonely seven-day-a week job and there were no days off. Finally he asked Nora.

“What?” she asked. “A woman?”

“Why not?” Mr. Reynolds said. I”t’s been done before. Sandy Sarah was the lighthouse keeper off the cape back before you and I were even thought of. She is a legend. Once when the light went out, she stood out on the rocks and waved a lantern all night during a storm. She died on those rocks. But she saved the lives of a hundred men. She did what lighthousemen have always done. She served the ships.”

Nora gave the thing a think and decided she was up to the offer. The next time she came out to the lighthouse she told Mr. Reynolds. In her late twenties, she had not found the love of her life. So she concluded the solitary life was for her. And the lighthouse would be the first home she had ever had. She had grown up in an orphanage, then taken a room in the local boarding house and earned her living as a typist.

The next time she came out to the lighthouse Mr. Reynolds told her that the Lighthouse League had approved her appointment as an apprentice lightsman. The next day she moved into the extra room at the cottage. The day after that Mr. Reynolds began her schooling of the finer points of lightsmanship. Teaching her how to clean the lens and how often. How to order supplies for the lighthouse. Those kind of things.

In the morning he fixed their late breakfast. In the evenings she made their dinners. In the afternoon after the chores were done, they walked out on the beach.

As time went on, Nora began her love affair with the sea. More and more she thought of it as home. There was a comfort in that. Mr. Reynolds whom she took to calling Reynolds was the father she had never had. And she was the daughter he never had.

Occasionally a visitor would come out to admire the lighthouse or to deliver supplies. They saw these two walking along the shore, two companions who had somehow found each other because of the light.

Twenty years went by and the old man came to the time of his death. His last words to Norah, “I have had only two loves in my life. The light and the light that is you. Thank you for all the happiness you have given me.”

Tears formed in Nora’s eyes. “And I have had only two loves in my life. The light and the light that is you.”

There was peace on the old man’s face as he went off to be a lightsman in another world.

Mr. Reynolds body was cremated. Nora threw his ashes into the sea. Now she was alone. But there were times when visitors would see Nora walking the beach. At her side was an old man.