A fishy smell story

Gabriela’s husband was a fishmonger. Every night Juan came home smelling like fish. She hated that smell so much. Sometimes it made her sick. But she loved Juan all the way to her deepest heart. He was a wonderful father to their baby, Pedro, and he had the kindest of hearts. She wanted better for the man she loved and for her son.

Gabriela went to see Father David. She told him how she felt about Juan and the fish.She picked up her baby who had been crawling on the floor. “Father, I cannot stand the smell.”

“That is a problem.” Father David did not have an answer for Gabriela, except to say she perhaps Our Lady would help with the smell.

On her way out, she lit a candle for Juan and prayed the Hail Mary. Then she asked the Mother for help.

Father David watched her walk down the dirt road back to the shack where she and Juan lived. He smiled. These were two of his best parishioners. Unlike the others, they never complained about their lives. Except for this once.

The next evening Juan came to see Father David.

“Father, I have a problem.”

“Yes,” Father David answered.

“It is Gabriela. I love her so much.”

“I know. I see you together.”

“It is the fish.”

Father David could smell the fish on Juan.

“They stink,” Juan said.

“Yes, they do.”

“Gabriela cannot stand the smell. And I do not blame her. Things were good when we first married but now. They are bad.”

“I am sorry to hear this.”

“I could get a job as a carpenter. I am good with my hands and I am good with the wood.”

“Wood doesn’t smell. It’s true.”

“But there is one problem.”

“There is always a problem. This is why God is there for us.”

“I’m afraid this one is not so easy to solve. Even for God”

Father David had seen God perform miracles. He had seen Him change hearts. So there was no problem God could not solve.

Juan hesitated, then he let out what was on his mind. “I am a sinner.”

“We are all sinners.”

“No, I am a sinner. I cannot resist temptation.”

Father David assured Juan, “You must pray to Our Lady. She knows your heart.”

“No, Father, my heart is wicked.”

Father David was taken aback by Juan’s insistence. “You must pray. What sin could there be Our Lady would not help you with?”

Juan’s voice went into a whisper as if others could hear him. No one could. The church was empty. “It is women. They love me. And I cannot resist them.”

Father David was floored. He choked down his response, then said, “Women love you? I don’t understand.”

“In the days before I met Gabriela, every night three or four women were after me. I was not a happy man. Then I met Gabriela. She was different than all the other women I had known. I had to come up with a plan. Even on my wedding night, there was a woman knocking on my door. That is why we left the city and came here. That is why I became a fish monger. The women now all turn and runaway when they smell me. I cannot go back to the days before. I love my wife so much. But I am about to lose her.”

Father David was stunned. He did not have an answer. Except one. “Let us pray to Our Lady and Her Son.”

The two prayed.

Our Lady heard Juan’s prayer. She went to Her Son and told Him the story. Her Son was taken aback. “Women cannot resist this Juan? That is a dilemma. Let Me give it some thought.”

That night the Lord couldn’t sleep. He lay tossing and turning. Juan’s dilemma was a challenge. He had looked down and seen Juan’s treatment of his wife and son. And how he even treated the beggar on the street. If ever there was a kind man, it was Juan. What could He do?

Like so many of His ideas, the Lord came up with a solution while taking a shower the next morning. He would send an angel. And so He did.

The angel’s name was Derwood. While Gabriela slept, Derwood sprinkled some stardust on her nose. The next morning Gabriela woke up bright and early. The birds were singing. The cat was meowing. It was like Gabriela was experiencing a whole new world. Juan came to the table for his usual breakfast. Funny thing was Gabriela couldn’t smell the breakfast. She couldn’t smell Juan.

That night when Juan came home, he wore his usual bad smell. But Gabriela couldn’t smell him. She realized that she couldn’t smell. She was so happy. She kissed her husband. And it was the best of kisses. Our Lady and Her Son had performed a miracle.

The next day, she and Pedro went to the church and lit a candle of thanksgiving. As she left the church, a beautiful woman approached her.

“Senora, you have a very handsome son. Can I hold him? He is so irresistible.”

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Zona’s Choice

Zona worked in a jewelry store. In her long dresses and her long hair braided all the way to her feet, she had a soft way about her. Each customer she treated like they were the only person alive. When she was asked about this, how she managed to focus on that person, she said, “Meditation. I meditate for sixty minutes each day.”

Zona had worked in the shop for ten years. She was always the first there and the last to leave. The owner was amazed at her commitment. He had never seen another who had that kind of commitment to anything. It just wasn’t done.

After thirty years of marriage, the owner’s wife died. He loved her deeply but she left him no children. The two of them had wanted children, but, after ten years, they quit trying. It was the gods’ plan for them and they accepted it. Although begrudgingly.

After a year’s time after her death, Mr. Kelps, the owner, began to think about Zona. She too had lost her husband. She and Min had only been married a year. Then she had gone to work for Mr. Kelp to support herself. His wife had liked Zona.

One night, Mr. Kelp closed the shop early. He asked Zona into his office after the other three workers left. Looking across from his desk, he said, “Zona?” He smiled. He liked the sound of her name. “I have a request.”

Zona’s response was yes, she would be willing to work a sixth day.

“That’s not what I am going to ask. You work hard five days a week and that is enough.”

Zona listened, thinking maybe a raise. She was happy with her salary. It provided for all her needs. And she had enough left over to save for her old age.

Then he asked, “Zona, would you be my wife?”

Never in a thousand years had she suspected such a thing. Mr. Kelps could have any of a number of young women in the city he wanted. Their fathers would gladly agree. Why her? In all the ten years she had worked at the shop, she had not imagined marriage. Through the years, she had come to love the kind man she sat across from. But she thought it was the love of a sister she had for him.

He continued, “I have realized over the last year how much you mean to me. You are not just an employee. Of all those I know, you are the one I trust most. And how much affection I have for you. This past week, I realized that it is more than affection. It is love. I have fallen in love with you.”

Zona listened as she listened to each person who was speaking to her.

He continued, “Have no fear. If you say no, you will not have to worry about losing your work here. And I will never speak of this again. Only you and I will know. But if you say yes, I will be happier than the gods.”

“May I think about your request?” she asked. “I will give you an answer at the end of six days.”

“Of course,” Mr. Kelps said. “Take your time. I only want your happiness. And consult any one you need.” As he watched the woman leave, he knew his wife would have been pleased with his choice.

That night, Zona went home. She prepared and ate her dinner of rice and vegetables. Then she cleaned up and sat for her evening’s meditation. Sitting on the floor before her mandala, she meditated longer than usual. She turned to her husband’s ashes. “Min, what do you think? Is this what I should do?”

Anytime Zona had a question or just wanted to bear her soul to someone, she addressed her husband’s ashes as they sat in the urn by her mandala. Even if she did not have an answer, she always felt comforted that her Min was close by. This time she was very concerned. If she married Mr. Kelp, Min would no longer be the one she shared thoughts and concerns with. She was not sure she could live without Min in her life.

She crawled into her bed and pulled the large blanket over her body. And she cried. She had not cried this way since her husband’s funeral. After the funeral, she had wanted to end her days. But she held back. It was a great sin she would be doing. Her people believed that. No matter what happened. One did not take fate into one’s hands. One struggled and lived with their destiny. Was Mr. Kelp her destiny? Only Min and the gods could tell her.

For four nights, she sat before the mandala and Min’s ashes. She had spoken her mind and she waited on Min and the gods. Only they would present a way forward. If they were silent, that also was her answer. She would not marry her employer.

On the fifth night, Zona had a dream. She walked along a pathway. On each side of the path were lovely trees and the most beautiful flowers. The path was wide enough for three. On her right side walked Min. On her left was one of the gods. They held her hands and they walked for what must have been hours until they came to a gate. Min and the god let go of her hands. Min gently pushed her forward through the gate.

Zona did not hold back but she did not go forward willingly. That was her way. Min and the god knew that.

She went through the gate, then turned and saw that Min was giving her his blessing. He leaned through the gate and kissed her cheek. So did the god. Then they were gone.

Zona turned to see a garden filled with flowers. She had never smelled such fragrance from flowers before. Then a rooster outside crowed and she woke up. Tears filled her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

She dressed the way she always did. She had her morning rice. Then she gathered up the urn and went to the temple.

A priest met the woman. She passed him the urn. Neither spoke a word. The priest knew what he was to do.

Zona left the temple. There wasn’t a smile or a frown on her face. There was only the peace she always wore.

The priest took the urn and scattered the ashes onto the fire lit for the gods. He said a prayer, then handed the urn to an assistant. Then he turned back to the fire and said, “Goodbye, Min. Your time on this earth is done.”

Min’s ashes gathered into what had once been Min and he flew away to join the gods.

The Nature Walk

Elgar was always surprised when, only a few feet away from the highway, there was nature. Trees, a river and deer. At least once a month, he drove up to this end of the island, parked and walked into what he considered a painting. A landscape. Here it was autumn and nature was doing her nature thing as always. This was the last visit he was to make in a long time. If ever. The next Saturday he was getting married, then they were moving out west to California. He would miss all this. It was his little secret. He hadn’t even told Louise. He wondered why that was. Was he hedging his bets? Didn’t he think the marriage would last. He hoped it would.

It was quiet on the lake. He looked out and watched a fish jump. The birds sang their last songs as they prepared to fly south for the winter. The trees unburdened themselves of their leaves. It was going to be a good day for a walk among the trees. He felt like Thoreau must have felt walking the Maine woods.

As he sauntered along, he pulled out his sketch book. He wasn’t much of a draftsman but he always made out what was on the paper. He had what must have been hundreds of these pads. He saw a bird peeping down through the leaves, watching him. He stood still, very still. Only his fingers moved with the pencil. The bird seemed to be saying his goodbye too. He felt sad for them both. His eyes did not take their focus off the bird. A long time ago he learned to let his hand draw what he was seeing while he watched the subject. He smiled, thinking about that.

When was he going to show Louise all his drawings and tell her of his nature walks? He felt guilty. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried. Every time he went to tell her something else came up. Should couples have secrets from one another? He wasn’t thinking of adultery or anything like that. He was thinking of something like his nature walk.

The thing was that he spent most of his time in the rough and tumble world of business. Managing a store was a 24/7 job and he had bought into the bargain. If he had not had these occasional excursions he couldn’t have survived it. He thought about the move. It was to the company’s headquarters to take over a division. It would be quite a bit more money. Louise liked the idea of moving out west. She had wanted to live in California for a long time. And he was sure there were places like this one out there. Well, maybe not like this one but natural places.

Jack loved the city. Its hustle and bustle. The people. But this was where he came to refill his tank. There came a point when he just felt drained. He remembered reading a book about John Muir. How he spent much of his time in the wilderness. Theodore Roosevelt got away from his political life and went out to Wyoming. These were great men who did great things. Now all the great ones did was go play golf. That was no way to relax. When he played golf, he became very competitive.

He finished his drawing, saluted the bird, and moved on. He saw a large rock and went over to it and sat down. He reached into the canvas pack at his waist and pulled out a paper bag of sandwiches. They were peanut butter. He uncapped his canteen and drank a swig of water. Sitting there, his teeth tearing into a sandwich, he realized what a happy man he was. And how fortunate. He had a great job. He had Louise. He had his health. He had enough money to live on and raise a family. So why was he feeling such trepidation. Why?

He remembered the first time he saw Louise. A friend had invited him to her recital. Afterward he walked over, and in his own quiet way, he congratulated her on her playing and her choice of music. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Then she surprised him, “Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” He surprised himself. “How about now. I mean, after you’re done here.” She thought about his offer. “Why not,” she answered. “I just have a few more people to see, then we can go.”

The crowd thinned out, she picked up her purse, and she walked over to him. “I’m ready.”

They spent a couple of hours with that coffee. They talked about the weather and the stock market. She was an analyst. They talked politics. She was a conservative. He was a liberal. Neither of them were very political. They voted but they didn’t attend rallies or campaign for a candidate.

After three, four dates, they had sex. It was good sex. Not great but good. They enjoyed each other’s company. They went to the opera. She was into the opera. They went to baseball games. He was into baseball. It had taken six months to date eight times. His schedule didn’t make it easy. Though he enjoyed his work, it left little time for a personal life. That was the reason for the move to California. When he was offered it, he called Louise and asked her what she thought.

“You would definitely have more us time,” she said. “I’d like that a lot.”

The next time they went out, he proposed marriage. He was surprised that she said yes, But she had.

A deer watched him from a distance behind some trees. He finished his sandwich and slipped his pad and pencil into his hand. Slowly he sketched, trying not to scare the deer. The deer seemed to understand that she was in no danger.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Story Making

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016).

While my guitar gently weeps, theme song for Kubo and the Two Strings.

The Making of Kubo and the Two Strings

For my two bits, movies succeed or fail because of one thing. The story. If the director has not honored the story or if he has decided not to have one, then, in my humble opinion, he has a lousy movie. Just look at two of the most successful movie series of all time, the Harry Potters and the Lord of the Rings. “Gone with the Wind” was a Margaret Mitchell family story.

As far as I can tell, few movies have delved into the art of storymaking and the storyteller. I am not referring to movies about writers like Wonder Boys or Adaptation. They are about writer’s block. The World According to Garp explores the relationships of a writer with women.

Unlike those movies, these explore the process of creation. Two of these movies have been directed by Marc Foster, Finding Neverland (2004) (about J M Barrie and his creation Peter Pan) and Stranger than Fiction (2006). Topsy Turvy (1999) explores the creation of Gilbert and Sullivan and The Mikado. Tim Burton’s most autobiographical movie, Big Fish (2003) is the big fish story and its relationship to the narrator’s father. With The Fall (2006), two patients in a hospital, a child and a stunt man encounter each other. The stunt man tells stories to the child to get her to steal drugs for him. In Inkheart (2008), the stories a man tells his daughter comes alive.

All these movies shine a light on just how magical stories can be and the relationship between the story and the story teller.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a wonderful addition to these films.

See this film and think about the stories in your life and what they mean to you.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: People Got To Be Free

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection. “People Got to Be Free” by the Rascals:

I went back in the Uncle Bardie Time Machine. And no, it isn’t a DeLorean or a phone booth. It’s a thingamajib I keep in my basement right next to Huff the Unmagical Dragon. No, he’s not a fire breather. He’s a regular pussycat. And he likes the Rascals as much I do.

I never will forget the first time I was introduced to Gene Cornish, Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, and Dino Danelli, the Rascals. I was a young squirt. I had just finished the Air Force’s Basic Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas and was sent off to the lingering winter weather of Rantoul, Illinois. I arrived late one Friday in May. I had the weekend free, so I left the base and made a trip to one of the local bars that catered to service dudes.

I walked in and the Rascals’ “Lonely Too Long” was blaring from the jukebox. I heard them sing and I just knew I had never heard anything quite as sweet. It was a thing to behold, hearing these guys. Blue-eyed soul had never sounded so good. These guys had out-righteoused the Righteous Brothers.

I was originally going to post another Rascals song. But it seemed to me “People Got To Be Free” was what was needed.