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.

Open Your Eyes

 Open your eyes, wipe the night away.
Open your eyes. It is morning,
the eastern sky awash with the sun and its many colors of light.
Slowly the world arises to do its daily dance.
The lonely and the loved gather themselves up for the new day.
Some waltz easily through the early hours;
for some, it is a difficult march
to be walked only after several cups of coffee.
Early runners dash onto city streets
where they run their morning runs.
Their sneakers pound a steady beat.
From the houses, from the homes that the runners pass,
breakfast aromas seep out to them,
voices rise and fall in a chorus of conversations.
“Up and at ‘em,” they chant,
some with a slight tone of the resignation that is Monday,
many accompanied by the sound of running water
as they shower, they shave, they brush their teeth and comb their hair.
In a suburban backyard,
butterflies flitter from roses to wisteria to crape myrtle.
A squirrel scampers from tree to ground and goes foraging for breakfast.
Two robins touch down on the birdbath, scoop the water into their beaks and drink.
Blue jays chatter while the bluebirds come singing,
their best songs sung for they who give an ear.
With its air cooling the skin, a breeze
eases through the oak, the mimosa, the loquat tree,
all standing near the tall metal fence at the property’s edge.
Leaves rustle. Wind chimes tinkle. Occasionally a dog barks.
A clarinet and piano jazz duet drifts in from two neighbors away.
Three cats appear at the kitchen door, a gray, a tabby, a black-and-white
meowing, scratching the wood, hungry from a night of out-and-about.
The door opens. The cats rush inside,
each heading for a bowl of Purina,
each chomping the dry brown pebbles of chow.
The black-and-white looks up. His big round eyes whisper,
“The day is such a joy, such a wonder,
if you open your eyes. Just open your eyes.
See and taste this day. Chew it well
and let its season pass in God’s good time. Soon
the butterflies will be gone.”

First snow

The wind resonates purring
soon to be clawing and biting,
chill crackles the air,
and automobile engines chatter
on this night icy and cold
from the year’s first snow;
Bobbie Ann and David, Warren,
Susie and I, we band of five
inseparably cloister against
the meowing on its prowl,
scratching, raking its talons
against the side of the house.
And then the calm. The snow calls
us from our stories, songs and games
to frolic in a niveous wonderworld
where we and other neighborhood kids
friskily pack and splatter
white balls of algidity while
missiles of ice hiss past.
A crash in the ear, a blast on the skin,
an ouch! and we slosh our retreat
to Bobbie Ann’s house,
hot chocolate and snow ice cream.

Near 500 words: Just about perfect

Another lyric adventure.

Love is just about perfect,
This and so much more,
Love is just about perfect,
So open up that door.

It’s a lovely morning.
All the colors are out.
Showing off their stuff
As I get on and about.

The sun’s making me smile,
A breeze upon my skin.
Could there ever be
A better day to walk in?

Love is just about perfect,
This and so much more,
Love is just about perfect,
So open up that door.

Oh, what the street gives up
On this Sunday Sunday:
Neighbor washing his car,
The birds having their say.

Kids doing kids’ play
Water bombing a lawn,
Dog chasing his tail,
Street having its fun.

Love is just about perfect,
This and so much more,
Love is just about perfect,
So open up that door.

Soon the day quiets down
When the sun tips his hat
On his way out of town
Letting us know he’ll be back.

Moon slips across sky,
Crickets sing her praises,
Nightly kisses good night,
Love ever amazes.

Love is just about perfect,
This and so much more,
Love is just about perfect,
So open up that door.

Near 500 words: Lawn-othology

Verily I say unto you. It is written in the Holy Writ of Lawn Care.

In the beginning, God created The Lawn. And it wasn’t just any lawn. It was The Lawn. And He separated it from the Non-Lawn. And that was the First Day.

On the Second Day, God created Lawn Care and He sowed The Lawn with seeds. Was it crab grass or St. Augustine grass or Kentucky blue grass? Could it have been Bermuda or Zoysia? Then again it might have been Fine or Tall Fescue. I’m voting for St. Augustine. Nobody knows for sure but we do know that–

On the Third Day, God fertilized that Lawn. And He fertilized with Grade-A cow manure. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been any reason for cows. This was way before the Hindus worshipped the Cow and definitely before those Got Milk commercials.

On the Fourth Day, God watered The Lawn. With rain, no less. In fact, it rained and rained so much and so hard that Noah’s flood was a stream of a flood compared to the Fourth Day’s rain.

On the Fifth Day, God kicked back to admire His work. But there is no rest for the weary. He gandered across that First Lawn and caught sight of a wee itty bitty weed goofing up His work of perfection. So God had a Himself a big breakfast and went off and did some first class weeding.

On the Sixth Day, God realized that The Lawn had gotten out of hand. God being God, He was a First Class Problem Solver. He made Himself a Man to keep up with all the seeding and fertilizing and watering and weeding.

So on the Seventh Day, God looked down from His Throne and saw that His Work was done and He could rest. For there was Man, and there was a lawn that needed mowing.

And to make sure that things were A-okay, it is also written in the Holy Writ, God’s Ten Tips For A Happy Lawn:
Thou shalt mow thy lawn.
Thou shalt mow thy lawn often. So thy neighbors won’t complain.
Thou shalt keep up with the Joneses and cut thy lawn just right.
Thou shalt not envy thy neighbor’s lawn mower.
Thou shalt not let thy neighbor’s dog poop, or thine for that matter, on thy lawn.
Thou shalt not let the weeds choke thy grass.
Thou shalt win blue ribbons for the best lawn in thy town.
Thou shalt not curse thy lawn.
Thou shalt remember that thy lawn has feelings.
So thou shalt give thy lawn its own Facebook page.
Amen.