Not For Him

A boy, just about nineteen, t-shirt and jeans and sneakers, looks through the window of a diner. Sees the girl for him. She’s a waitress ’bout six foot tall. And blonde. Then again her hair’s not blonde but white. As white as a white washed fence. She looks up from the order she’s taking and sees him gazing at her. He turns away from the window. She is not for him. Just not for him. They never are. The girls, that is. So he returns to his walking the late night streets of the city. Under a bridge and down an alleyway he walks, thinking of nothing in particular. The girl in the restaurant comes to mind. But she’s not for him. What would she see in him? After all, he’s got a broken nose and freckles sprinkled all over his face and his red hair. Every one saying he’s an ugly he beats to a pulp. They’re not saying it anymore. But he knows he is what they would be saying if they were not afraid. The night keeps his face out of the light. So she’s not for him. And he’s walking down the Not-for-him Street. “He’s nothing but trouble,” his dad has been saying for years and years. His mom not saying it, but she’s thinking he is. He is hiding out in the nighttime streets of the city where anyone can hide from his fears and his loneliness. So what if she’s not for him. How’s he ever going to know if he don’t turn around and go. Back to the diner and the girl with white hair he saw in the light through the window. So he sheds himself and heads on back to the maybe-it’s-possible in a diner off the main street of the city. On he walks, walking off the tough, shedding his fear, ready to give loneliness the old t.k.o. He trudges on but maybe she’s really not for him. How’s he ever gonna know if he don’t go ask. His dirty sneakers and blue jeans and t-shirt find their way back at the diner just as the night turns off and it’s just about daybreak. She’s getting off her shift and she’s just leaving the diner when he rounds the corner and she’s sees him coming to her. But he’ll pass her by. One thing for sure. He’s not for her. He’s not for her.

“Nighthawks”

Andy entered the large cavern that was The Bookstore. It was his favorite place of all his favorite places. A world of treasures, and there was always a new treasure to find. Stacks and stacks of books, new and used, and five floors of them. He hurried past the cashiers. There were three of them, and always ringing up this or that customer.

He bounded up the stairs to the third floor after his favorite book. Someone borrowed his copy. Not just someone. His girlfriend, Tallis. She returned his book of Edward Hopper paintings with a third of the pages missing. She didn’t even apologize. “Here is that damned fool of a book you’re always bugging me about,” her lips said. He was deaf. “I don’t like it, and I don’t like you.”

He came to the shelf where the American artists were found. Where he first found the book of Hopper’s paintings. There were Andrew Wyeths, Grant Woods, Jackson Pollocks, Georgia O’Keefes. “No Hoppers. I can’t believe it. They’ve sold out. No ‘Nighthawks’.” There was a truckload of disappointment in his voice. He tried several other shelves to make sure he had the right shelf for the Hoppers. They were all gone.

Andy made his way back down the poorly lit, narrow alleyway of an aisle and toward the main thoroughfare where he knew there would be a clerk to help him. “May I help you, Mr. Harris?” The young female clerk recognized him from his many visits. He choked back his frustration and got out the word, “Hopper?”

“We’re sold out. There is a big conference on Hopper at the University and all the bookstores are sold out. We can order a copy for you if you like.” Her lips moved slowly so that he would get the words.

He shook his head no, then was back down the stairs and crashing out into the light of the midday sun. The light hurt his eyes. He blinked, then put on his sunglasses. He went to his left and toward the university. He had to see the painting, “Nighthawks”, one last time. One last time before his eyes gave out. One last time before he was blind.

Andy remembered the very first time he saw it. It was the day his hearing disappeared. His mother handed him a book on Hopper, her favorite artist, and he opened it right to the two-page spread of the painting. Until that moment, he had been frightened. He was going deaf. “Nighthawks” settled him into the courage to accept his fate. He was pulled into the painting and his isolation, his loneliness was their isolation, their loneliness. Many times since he had gone in search of that diner or a diner like it and never found it. Now he was searching for the painting for one last look.

Things were beginning to blur as he walked through the gates of the University and toward the conference. Would he make it in time? His walk changed into a run. And finally he found the auditorium.

The auditorium was filled with conference attendees. At the front and on the stage was “Nighthawks”. Andy could barely see it. But he could see enough of it to know that it was his painting. Each step toward the stage was lightened by his excitement. It might be the last thing he saw but he was going to see it. The audience watched, entranced, frozen, staring at the gray-haired man. The speaker stopped his talk.

Andy touched the steps to the stage, then he was on the stage, one thing on his mind. “Nighthawks.” Then he was in front of the painting. The canvas was large enough to give his eyes their fill of the pleasure he felt. There were the three people having their coffee. His friends, his parents who always made him feel loved. Loved. Tears blurred his eyes. Everything went dark. Everything fell into the darkest night.

But then he saw it. “Nighthawks” on the dark canvas of his blindness. And he knew he would never be alone again.

What’s a Dot To Do?

A Fable

Once upon a time there was a Dot. Let’s call him Fred. Everywhere Fred went, he met squares, circles, lines, ovals and all sorts of shapes. In all his far-flung travels to the nooks and crannies of the four corners of the world, he came across hundreds of shapes. No other dots.

He came to appreciate all those other shapes as he traveled about. Oh sure, circles would roll right over things. It was just their way. But every shape had a useful purpose. For instance: What would a baseball field be without a diamond? What would prevent accidents on a one-way street if not for the arrow pointing the right way? What would a plate be without a circle? Nada. Nowhere. A big, fat zero, which is a circle, by the way.

From time to time, Fred’s neighbor, Mrs. Arrow, gave a party. She invited all her arrow relatives. Invitations also went out to the ovals and the circles, and the lines always received an invite. The lines liked to roar. There was no better place to roar than at a party. Every shape in the neighborhood was invited. Everybody but Fred.

He was always the left-out kid. Over the years, he came to feel his dotness was a curse. Especially when he overheard one oval yell at another, “Go dot yourself.”

His dotness became such a burden of loneliness he often thought about ending it all. Perhaps stretch himself from one end of the neighborhood to the other until he pulled himself apart into a thousand smidgens. The image gave him the shivers. He decided that was a bad idea.

One night he had a very bad case of the lonelies. Only a walk would do him any good. He passed a dance hall he had passed dozens of times before. Usually he didn’t go inside, knowing that it was full of disappointment. On this particular night there was a difference in the air. He wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe the music, maybe the bright lights streaming out from the hall.

He put on his best smile and walked inside. The hall was packed, the music jumping. A couple of rhumbi rhumba-ed their rhum-busses off. A few quadrangles partnered for some quadrilaterals. A group of squares square-danced. The circles rolled in their sweet babies’ arms. Even the arrows were doing the pointy-ointy. Each shape danced to the same music, but heard a different drummer from the other shapes.

There were some solo acts around the floor. None wanted to dance with Fred. He asked. They said, “You’re not my shape.” One nasty oval put it bluntly, “Why don’t you just shape up or ship out, bud?”

Disappointed as usual, Fred returned to the empty streets of Shape City, began the slow slog of a walk home. He made up his mind for the five-hundred-and-eighty-eighth time that never ever would he let his hopes soar off to some pie-in-the-skyski that turned out to be mud. There was no dancing partner for him and there never would be. No other dot in the world and that was that.

He was so lonely that not even the night masked his agony. He came to a bridge, looked out at the water. He contemplated jumping into the water but he knew he wouldn’t drown. He would just float away into the night. Gazing at the full moon, mooning him, he clinched his hand into a fist, shook it at the sky and cried, “Please, Mr. Moon, please.” He fell to the street and sobbed, “Have some compassion on this little dot you see here.”

“Are you a dot?” a soft voice above him asked. Hesitantly it continued, “I’m a dot too.”

Fred stared at the cold, hard cement, afraid to look up, fearing that it was a voice from his imagination, an imagination that had fooled him many times before.

“Please,” the female voice said. “I’ve been searching–”

Fred dared not hope.

“–for so long,” the voice continued. “Years and years.”

It couldn’t be, could it? Fred asked himself. He slowly turned his head upward toward the voice. “You’re not a circle?” he asked timidly. “You’re a dot?”

“Yes.”

It had to be a trick. He was sure that there was no other shape like him in this god-awful, dot-free world. There wasn’t. There just wasn’t another dot. But there she was, standing above him.

A dot. The most beautiful shape he had ever seen.

“All my life,” she said, “I have never met–”

“–another dot,” he said. She was a dot. She was a dot. Fred’s heart danced for joy. “Me neither.”

The two dots embraced, each desperate for the touch of another dot. For the first time in their lives, they were not alone. After minutes, maybe longer, they released their embrace.

“I’m Fred.”

“I’m Ginger,” the words tumbled out of her. “I saw you at the dance. But I was afraid. Thought I was dreaming. I have seen so many dots who turned out to be nothing more than small circles.”

“I didn’t see you.”

“I was in the shadows. I’ve been laughed at so many times that I always stand in the shadows.”

They sat down on the side of the street and talked. How square the squares were. How the circles sang out of key. And, my god, the ovals. What were they about? The two laughed at the same jokes. Like “how many circles does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, because light bulbs don’t believe in circles.” It was the same with so many things. Music and poetry, movies and food. They even had the same impressions of their travels, realizing they had often missed each other by minutes at so many of the places they had been.

He reached over, took her hand, felt her warmth. Under that full, round, yellow moon of a night, they danced for the first time the first of many polka dots. Suddenly the moon was a dot. The stars were dots. The trees were sprinkled with dots. The water below shimmered with dots. It was a night of dots, and nothing but dots.

Fred and Ginger knew that they would never be alone again.

Near 500 words: The King of Wands

Katherine looked into her daughter’s dark eyes. She loved the face with its smile and the blonde hair under the white bonnet. “The King of Wands is coming home,” she said.

Darla went into a little dance, her face all lit up like a Christmas tree trimmed in lights. She was a whirling dervish dancing before her mother, excitement pouring from her ten-year-old body, singing, “The King of Wands is coming home.” So much joy for a sailor who never stayed home. Then Darla stopped her dancing. “Will he stay this time?”

“Probably not,” Katherine answered.

Darla’s shoulders dropped. “Just like the King of Wands.”

Katherine was not happy. But she did not share her unhappiness with Darla. She was tired of the man who checked in for a couple of weeks, then was off for months. For fifteen years, Katherine endured. Each time he came home she hoped this was the last time he went away.

She tired of the life she lived, so she met another man a few days earlier. Horace was an older man, a widower of ten years. They were shopping for vegetables. Her hand went for the potatoes. His hand went for the potatoes. It was an absent-minded, accidental thing for the both of them.

“Sorry.” Horace drew back his hand.

Katherine managed to get out, “’S’okay.”

Neither knew what to say. So they said nothing for the next few minutes. They just stared into each other’s eyes.

Then Horace broke the silence. “You come here often?”

“Most everyday,” the words stumbled out of Katherine. “I like our vegetables fresh. And you?”

“Only occasionally. It’s on my way from the doctor’s.”

“Are you okay?” Concern entered Katherine’s voice, concern for the tall, white-haired man standing in front of her.

“It’s just my semi-annual physical.”

Relieved, Katherine let out a sigh.

“Would you like to get a glass of wine?” Horace let out. “I hear they have very good wines at the café next door.”

Katherine’s face blushed. No man had asked her out for years. Or perhaps they had tried. She ignored them because of her devotion to the King of Wands. Then she smiled. “Why not.”

At the café, the two laid their lives out on the table. At the end of the conversation, Horace asked, “Would you like to go to see a film? One afternoon, that is?”

Katherine’s pulse was racing. Her thoughts were “When?” But she did not let on to this. She simply said, “Maybe. What did you have in mind?”

“There’s a movie theater that shows classics and foreign films nearby.”

“I know the place.” She didn’t but she would find it.

“Next week they are showing ‘Jules and Jim’. It’s Truffaut.”

“I love Truffaut.”

“Then next Wednesday we can meet here at noon, have lunch, then see the film.”

“You’re not a sailor, are you?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not. I get seasick.”

As they readied to part, she let the older man kiss her on the cheek. Then she returned to the grocer for her vegetables. Darla would be home from school soon.

And so would the King of Wands. For the last time.

Being a Dark Lord isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

When you’re the Dark Lord, it’s a lonely job. Nobody likes you. Despite all that Sauron had done for Middle Earth, he just wasn’t appreciated.

Without Sauron, there would have been no Rings. Without the Rings, no “Lord of the Rings”. And just think of all the fun we readers would have missed. Can you imagine Harry Potter without He-who-must-not-be-named? Ah, c’mon you want to say it. Voldemort. Now there don’t you feel better. And like Sauron, Voldemort was a lonely dude too. At least, Lex Luthor had Lana Lang and Eve Teschmacher.

Anyway, back to Sauron. Without Sauron, we’d never have heard of Hobbits. I mean we might have heard of Bilbo Baggins because he went off with the dwarves and took on that dragon. But that was not epic the way the trilogy was.

Without Sauron, the trolls and the orcs and all the Wraiths would have run amok. And you ain’t seen amok until there’s been an amoking by trolls and orcs and Wraiths.

You think Sauron was a bad dude. Well, I got news for you. Compared to Morgoth. Sauron was a pussy cat. A pussy cat with claws, yes. But still a pussy cat.

And Sauron had a lot to offer. First he had all those rings. I mean, what girl can resist jewelry. He had a very large castle. Sure, it left a lot to be desired. No central heating and all. But you think Prince Charming could do better.

Oh yeah, I forgot. Prince Charming had a set of teeth no girl could resist. They gave his smile a glow. I’m here to tell you it was all so fake. Prince Charming was one heck of a bigamist. First, he kisses Sleeping Beauty. Before you know, she is so pregnant. And Cinderella? Before she knew it, she was married to a guy with a foot fetish. Well, those ladies finally got even. Have you ever heard of the Amazons? You guessed. Cindy and Beauty started them.

Most of all Sauron had land. Lots and lots of land. Enough land to impress any girl. But the one thing Tolkien forgot to tell us was that Sauron was land poor. Like those English aristocrats who married English aristocrats, Sauron had no cash. Morgoth had left him with all those mortgages and the dwarves had hidden the gold, what else could Sauron do? Either marry a rich Elf or go on the warpath. He much preferred marry a rich Elf and settling down.

He dated Galadriel for a while. She was so stuck on herself she kept trying to show off her powers. Well, there was only so much of that a guy could take. Then he dated Arwen but she had the hots for Aragorn.

You know the old saying. Rejected once, it must be them. Rejected twice, it must be you. Well, what else could Sauron do? Attack Gondor and get the gold. All that gold would pay off the mortgages and give him enough cash to keep the Wraiths happy.

Too bad he didn’t ask Eowyn out on a date before Faramir came around. After all, she was the daughter of a king. She rode a horse like a jockey, threw a spear like an Olympic javelin thrower, and handled a sword like Sir Lancelot. If not her, there were lots of other princesses in Middle Earth who were looking for a guy. Naw, it was the Eye that scared the humans away.

So what are the morals of this story. When looking for love, don’t look in all the wrong places.  Elves are known to be stuck on themselves. Watch out for guys who want to know your shoe size. And just because the person you’re dating has a great smile doesn’t mean they’re not a bigamist. And never, ever marry for money. Cash is nice but bankruptcy can be a pain.

So you can see, being the Dark Lord isn’t what it appears to be. It’s a lonely job. And the little guy always wins the girl. After all, Sam lived happily ever after.