Near 500 words: Happiness, and then some

Clara had such a smile it could wake up the world with its beauty. Especially when she told him, “I love you, Dan.”

Dan had dated a lot of girls. Clara was the first he thought he might want to spend the rest of his life with. Clara and Dan started dating on a blind date. Dan had told his friend, Jill, “Blind dates are the worst.”

Jill insisted.

To show Jill how wrong she was, he gave in. He saw Clara, then his heart went wow. Jill had been right.

Jill had dated a lot of guys. Most of them were duds. She too resisted Jill’s offer of a blind date. Then she saw Dan. The smile appeared on her face.

Dan wasn’t the handsome sort. Kinda skinny with a small nose and the curly hair. He wasn’t what Clara would have thought as Mr. Wonderful.

Clara’s face wasn’t that of a raving beauty. It was kind of plain. But then there were those dimples that came with the smile. And, oh, she warmed Dan’s heart.

That first night they gave each other their life stories and threw in some ancestral heritage to stir the pot. First they did dinner, then walked and walked and walked the city streets, then it started to rain. There under a bridge, Dan kissed Clara and Clara kissed Dan.

Clara was the first to speak. “I never.”

“I never either,” Dan said, just as surprised as Clara. “Could this be?”

“I believe so.”

Of all the nights in his life, this was to be the one Dan remembered the most. The same for Clara.

“What will we tell Jill?” Clara asked, smiling that smile, cradled in Dan’s arms.

Dan’s hand stroked Clara’s hair. “She’ll never let us forget how right she was.”

They laughed. Then they kissed one of those long slow kisses that make time stop. When the kiss was over, Dan asked, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

“Spend it with you,” Clara said.

It wasn’t a big wedding. Quite small with a few friends. Jill got to be the Best Man. That was only right.

Dan and Clara went off on their honeymoon. They went to Spain. As they listened to the gypsies play the flamenco, Dan asked his beloved, “Let’s not go back home?”

“Let’s not.”

Dan wrote an article for National Geographic. Clara drew the pictures. They dropped them into the post and off the package went to the magazine’s offices. A week later, as they left their room in the hotel, a hotel employee hurried up to them. “You have a phone call,” he said.

It was the editor of National Geographic with an offer they could not refuse. She wanted to buy their story, and she wanted more. The magazine would pay them to roam the world, tell their stories, and draw them. It was perfect for Clara and Dan.

Their dream life. They hadn’t talked about it but they thought about it.

Dan called his brother. “Sell the house. Sell everything,” he said.

Then they hit the road. To Toledo, then to Barcelona, then on to Nice. It was in Nice that Clara found out she was pregnant.

“We’ll take a break,” Dan said. “We’ll be Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda.”

“Oh, no. Not those two. We’re not going to drown our joy in booze.”

Then all the happiness came tumbling down on them. Clara had a miscarriage. Clara cried for a week, and so did Dan. Suddenly their smiles disappeared. Finally, Dan asked, “What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to go on,” Clara said, not sure what she meant but knowing that was the only answer there was.

Holding hands, they looked out from the balcony at the sea. They both knew that the paradise was over. It was time to pay the piper. They also knew that, no matter what, they would pay the big fellow together. It did not bring back the smiles but, at least, it gave them hope as they watched the sunrise over the sea.

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Neither snow nor rain nor heat

“But it looks like a storm,” Hank says to his wife.

“You need new clothes,” she says.

“There’s a storm coming.”

“I know how you hate shopping.”

“We can’t go out in that.”

“Let’s see. You need a new blazer, a parka, a sweatshirt, and a sweater. While we’re at it, we might as well get you some pajamas, undershirts, and socks. Some briefs too. And I need shorts. One of my old pair is beginning to look like boxers. I hate that.”

“It’s going to storm.”

“You’re such a wuss. Now get my purse and let’s go.”

Resigned to his fate, Hank gets her purse and follows her out. All the while, he gets in the last word, “But it’s going to storm.”

An Un-fairy Tale

It was a party, that wedding reception. Half the kingdom showed up to eat, dance and be merry. The couple was extremely popular and well-loved. That was why it was such a surprise when they started in a marital train wreck It had been such a fairy-tale, their romance.

As disappointed as everybody was, they all knew that happily-ever-afters were not to be. Marriage took a lot of work. Charming and Beauty might have been up to the work. They were not committed to it. Sure they liked the glow of it all. They had both gone to see “Romeo and Juliet” a dozen or more times. They had binged on “Outlander” on tv. And they were smitten by “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

The real test was when he farted at an inappropriate moment and when she belched when they were visiting his parents. Most couples let the body functions pass with, “I’ve heard worse” or “I’ve smelled worse.”

The real trouble nobody spoke about was that Beauty wasn’t Cinderella or Snow White. And Charming wasn’t the Woodsman or the Big Bad Wolf.

The parents of the couple suggested counselling. It had helped them through their troubled times. Beauty. But that didn’t help. It made matters worse. Now they spelled out loud the issues. After the third session, the Royal Marriage Counsellor shook his head and gave up.

“He’s been biting the apple with Snow White and she’s had a real howl-in with Big Bad. Let’s face it. It’s a case of ‘the grass is greener on the other side of the fence’. Nothing can save this marriage.”

Now it just so happened that it was that time of year. Early autumn. As usual Merlin was taking his stroll through the kingdom. After the fiasco with King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, he didn’t show his face much anymore. He’d failed Camelot, and that was that. Fortunately he had been taking lessors from Gandalf. Since Gandalf had gotten Aragorn and Eowyn together, he was considered Matchmaker to the Stars.

It was hard to miss the news about Charm and Beauty. There were posters on just about every tree in the forest and photograms all over Instagram of the fights. Merlin saw his chance to get back into everybody’s good graces. If he could fix the couple’s marriage and give the kingdom a happily-ever-after, he would be the superstar he’d always seen himself as.

He pulled out his smartphone and started taking pictures of the unhappiness that had hit the kingdom like the ten plagues of Egypt. Humpty Dumpty’s fall was the first. Then there was Little Red Riding Hood’s granny and the Billy Goat Gruff taking out the Troll. There was the two little pigs’s houses the wolf had blown to smithereens. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Repunzel’s hair all fell out.

Merlin put together his powerpoint presentation of the destruction Charm and Beauty’s marriage was doing to the kingdom. Then he buckled up his bucklet and went up to the Castle. He knocked on the giant wooden door. When the porter asked what he wanted, he answered, “I’m here to see the Prince and  Princess.”

“I’m sorry but no can do. Lady Macbeth went chasing Spot the Dog and fell off the castle wall. And Lord Macbeth’s got Macduff’s sword stuck up his tushy.”

“Not that couple,” Merlin said angrily. “The Prince and the Princess, you goof.”

“Don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m sorry your gps isn’t up to snuff. Their castle is the one on the hill. If you had put The Castle on the Hill into it, it would have taken you to their front door step. But be forewarned. That place has gone to quackers.”

Merlin’s eyes followed the porter’s finger as it showed the way. There must have been more steps to the Castle on the Hill than there was to the top of the Great Pyramid. For a second the old wizard choked. This was not going to be easy. Then he buckled himself up for the climb and determined that a wizard’s got to do what a wizard’s got to do. If it was easy, everybody would have the job.

It was a long, arduous climb that took a fortnight. For you readers who don’t know what a fortnight is, it’s two weeks.

He came to the door of the Castle on the Hill. Before knocking, he sat down on the stone walkway and had himself a rest. He dumped the pebbles out of his shoes and saw the holes in their soles. If he pulled off his goal, there would be a reward of new shoes.

Then he stood up straight and rang the giant bell.

“Who’s there?” the guard at his post asked from the other side of the door.

“It’s Merlin, the Magician. Let me in.”

“State your business.”

“Marriage counselling.”

From the other side of the door, there were guffaws galore. Finally, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Merlin was not used to being challenged when he was determined to do a thing. So he said, “Let me in or I will huff and puff and blow your house down.”

More laughter. Then, “We’ve heard that before. You gotta do better than that.”

Merlin sunk his head into his hands and said mostly to himself, “Oh, what to do. What to do.”

At that, his staff whispered in his ear. He called out the offer the staff offered, “A flagon of ale for every member of the staff.”

From the other side of the door, “What’s a flagon?”

“It’s a lot. Now let me in.”

“Well, if you insist, but we want the good stuff.”

The door creaked open. Merlin strode in, lifted his wand, and said loudly, “Let the booze flow.”

The Castle-on-the-Hill tour guide walked out of his cottage. “May I help you, sir.”

“The couple?” Merlin said huffing and puffing, not from exhaustion, but from frustration. “Where’s Prince and Princess?”

The tour guide pointed at the two lights at opposite ends of the castle. “There.”

At that, Merlin did what any self-respecting wizard would do. He gathered himself up, then he thought, “Geez, more stairs.” That was followed by, “I guess a wizard got to do what a wizard’s got to do.” And up the stairs he went.

First he showed his powerpoint to Beauty, then he went down to the other end of the Castle and showed Charm. They both laughed him out of their rooms.

This was Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot all over again. What to do? What to do?

Merlin, never being a quitter, was not about to take this lying down. There was only one magic spell left in his ye-olde-spellbag. So he pulled it out and said the magic words, “Jimmy Stewart.” Then he grabbed up the royal couple as fast as you can say, “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle” and took them down to the Royal Movie Theater and showed them “It’s a wonderful life”. By the end of the movie, Charm and Beauty were in each other’s arms. bawling their eyes out. Jimmy Stewart had done what Jimmy Stewart always did. He did that old Jimmy Stewart magic.

From that moment on, there was no more complaining about the farting or the belching. Twenty years and three kids later, they found those activities endearing in each other. And there was rejoicing and happily-ever-after-ing throughout the land. On top of that, Merlin’s Matchmaking Business went into franchising. Now the kingdom has one on every corner.

The business has prospered so much so that Merlin is taking it public next week. You can buy shares under the ticker name of MMBz.

Near 500 words: The Nates

The two Nates met on a Saturday night. It was a Blind Date. As they were eating their burgers, Natalie said, “Wouldn’t it be funny?”

“If we fell in love?” Nathaniel finished her sentence.

“And got married?” Natalie finished his sentence.

“Let’s do that,” Nathaniel added.

The Blind Date turned into more dates till finally Nate asked Nate to marry him. Nate agreed and began to plan the wedding. They sent out invitations with N & N engraved on them.

Instead of a wedding dress and a tux, the bride dressed as Tweedledee and the groom was Tweedledum. It was the thing Nates would do. After all, she was tall and he was tall. She had long auburn hair and him, his hair was not so much.

He was bald. Gravity had tugged on his hair and pulled it through his head and downward into a long beard. But it was a nice beard, well-groomed in a groom sort of way.

In the chapel, they did their I-doeses to the applause of friends and family. At the reception, the best man, whose name was Charlie, toasted the couple. The maid of honor looked across the table and gave him the look. You know the one. The one that says it’s love at first sight. Her name was Charly.

Nate turned to Nate and said, “Before you know it—”

Nate finished the groom’s sentence, “they’ll be doing the Charleston.”

Then Nate and Nate went off to Hawaii for two weeks. They surfed. They snorkeled. They went to a luau. They rode motorcycles up the side of a volcano.

They came back pregnant. Soon Nate’s belly was balloon-size. They were having twins. The babies were born. Charly and Charlie came to the hospital to see the newborns. Charly was pregnant.

“When are you due?” Nate asked from her hospital bed.

“Seven months,” the beginning-to-show Charly answered, then smiled as she looked at the newborns.

Charlie looked up from the babies in their crib and over at Nate in her bed. “She has your smile.”

“He has your eyes,” Charly said to the father, standing beside his wife’s bed. “Do you have names picked out?”

“We do,” Nate said through his beard.

“I suppose,” Charly said as she felt her belly. It felt like a kick but it probably was too soon for that.

Her husband added, “it will be Nate and Nate.”

“Heck no,” Nate said from her bed. “That would be dumb.”

Nate agreed. “No, we’re calling them—”

From her bed, Nate said, “Smith and Jones.”

The soon-to-be father, asked, “Which one is Smith and which one is Jones?”

The new mom announced, “The girl is the older one. So her name is Jones.”

“And the boy is Smith,” Nate said.

Both Charly and Charlie gave them a look that said, “How did you choose which was which?”

Nate’s wife answered, “Oh that’s easy. The first one out was Jones. So it’s obvious that Smith has to keep up with the Jones.”

 

Near 500 words: The Great Hat War

Doris came home from the market upset. She stormed through the front door and passed Charles on the sofa and into the kitchen.

Her husband of forty years closed his newspaper and folded it neatly. He rose and followed his wife into the kitchen. She was angrily putting things away. Charles went to kiss her on the cheek.

She glared at him. “Don’t you dare.”

“What’s wrong, Sweet’ems?” he asked.

Sweet’ems was in no mood to be Sweet’ems. “Don’t Sweet’ems me.”

This was not good. Not good at all. Charles was concerned. He had not seen his wife this upset since the Big Shoe Expedition of 1896.

Doris glared at Charles. “Fine mess,” she mumbled. “That Henrietta Dumpling and her snide remarks.”

Uh-oh, Charles knew there was going to be trouble. He just had to figure out how to escape the firing squad.

Doris finished her work in the kitchen, then headed to the bedroom, mumbling.

Charles went back to the living room and his newspaper. This Serbian thing was getting serious. Austria-Hungary declaring war. That was not good. Soon the Russians, then the Germans. Before you knew it, France would be in the thick of it and he’d be called up to serve in the General Staff. He did not have a good feeling about this. He remembered the last time France and German were at loggerheads.

Doris came out of the bedroom. “Does this or does this hat not look lovely?” It was the blue hat with the fruit in Doris’ hand.

Charles remembered how much the hat had cost. “Of course, it’s beautiful.”

“That Henrietta Dumpling just laughed at it.”

Charles sat the newspaper down and went over and hugged his wife. “What are you upset for? Henrietta Dumpling has absolutely no sense of style at all.”

“She laughed at my hat. My beautiful hat.”

To calm his wife down, he gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “Tell you what. We’re going out and buy you a new hat. Then you can wear it to the opera Saturday. I have tickets to the Puccini and Rosetta Arpin is singing the lead.”

Doris kissed her husband.“You know how much I love Rosetta Arpin. And a new hat. You are the best. Tonight you will get a special treat.”

“You have to promise one thing.”

She had that look on her face like she was not sure she was going to like the promise. But then again it was for a new hat. And the opera.

“No more mention of Henrietta Dumpling. You promise?”

“She is always at the market.”

“That she is. We’re just going to have to come up with a strategy. After all, she has crossed the Rubicon. Insulting my Sweet’ums’ hat. How dare her?”