My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I got the power

"Wanna know how to drive a teacher crazy?" asked Clyde.
"No not really," I said. I was always the prim and proper kid at RTS and I was only in the second grade.
"I'm gonna tell you anyway," he said. "See this bobby pin?"
"Well, you take it like this and bend it out straight like this."
"Uh huh."
"You know the space between the frame and the wooden seat in you desk?"
"OK. Now you wedge this straight part into that space. Once it's snug you hold the other end down like this, then let it go. Simple. She never knows where it is coming from. Drives her crazy.
"You gonna try it?" asked Clyde. "It's great fun."
"I don' know. I might get in trouble."
"You pantywaist. Try to teach you some good fun stuff and you always say no 'cause you might get in trouble."
"My folks don't like me getting in trouble."
"Nef, you gotta enjoy yourself."
"Don't know that I would enjoy the teacher getting mad at me." 
"What a wimp."  With that he tossed the bobby pin and walked away shaking his head. I picked up the bobby pin and put it in my pocket. Shouldn't throw trash on the floor, I thought.
The next day after settling in my desk at school I took out my book as the teacher asked and slid forward in my seat to get a pencil out of my drawstring bag. Something stuck into my leg. I stifled a cry of pain and reached into my pocket and pulled out the straightened bobby pin. I know my face turned red because I had the weapon to irritate my teacher. I felt like a criminal but as I looked at it I began to wonder how it would feel. It was a slow creeping sense of power. Clyde told me I could control the teacher's actions with this little slip of metal. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to try it. I was in the back of the class so I would be seen. Snickering to myself I slipped the end of the bit of wire into the space Clyde had told me. I made sure it was tightly wedged. Then I looked up at the teacher, certain she had been watching my every move. She was busy at the blackboard writing something on it. I looked down at the bobby pin. I put my thumb on the end sticking out. I pushed it down and let it go precisely as Clyde had shown me. SPROING!
The sound of it was deafening to me. The teacher stopped and turned around. The class began to fidget looking in all directions to locate the sound. I sat up primly and properly and moved my head in all directions as if looking for the noise. 
"What was that?" the teacher asked. 
No one answered. I just shrugged my shoulders and looked around. She took no notice of me, frowned a little and turned back to the board. Encouraged I put my thumb on the spring. SPROING! SPROING! I popped it twice, living dangerously.
This time she stopped, turned around, and walked to the front line of desks. Looking around the room she said, "Whoever is making that noise, please stop. You are disrupting my class."
Clyde was right. I had her in the palm of my hand. I had the power. She continued to stand looking at each child. When she looked at me, I knew I was caught. I sat with crimson face but she looked away. HA! I said to myself. Once again she returned to the board. SPROING! SPROING! SPROING! I almost laughed out loud.
She stopped, turned quickly and slammed her book on her desk along with the chalk.
"Alright! Who's doing that? I won't have it!"
By now the other kids had located the noise and were looking at me snickering. The teacher began to walk along the aisles between the desks. First she looked at the kid who was always a troublemaker. He was holding his hands up shaking his head vigorously while trying not to laugh out loud. She turned from him and slowly looked around some more. Then she took her time returning to the blackboard. As her back turned. SPROING! SPROING! SPROING! SPROING! I popped it fast. To me it was a machine gun. I was having the time of my life. I was on the top of the world. All the kids knew it was me and they looked around laughing and snickering. The teacher was no longer in control. I was! It was bedlam in that room. Laughter bounced off the ceiling. That bobby pin was firing away like a tommy gun. I was watching it vibrate with each flick of my thumb and then the light from the windows was gone and a dark shadow fell over me. I stopped flicking the wire. I turned slowly to see my second grade teacher hovering over me. Her face shown anger with a touch of hurt because her quiet well behaved student had become a rowdy troublemaker.
"Rickey Croucher! What are you doing? Hand that thing over now!" I slipped the bobby pin from its position. I handed it to her as she pulled me up by my ear. We marched to the principal's office to the thunder of children's laughter along the breezeway. I caught it in the office. I caught it when I got home. 
Clyde just laughed for days.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Little people 2

I was out walking again last night along the same path when I heard music coming from the area of oaks.  I slipped behind one of the larger trees and looked around.  A light shone through the window of a small building over near the marsh.  A high note sounded from a small trumpet from within.   Making myself as inconspicuous as possible I edged toward the window.  Lying prone I could just see inside.  There was a low yellow light from oil lamps on the walls. Below them little people were quaffing ale and playing cards.  Others were dancing on the floor before the band which was wailing out a fast tune for the couples slipping and sliding to the beat.  Over in the far corner I recognized a face and a bandaged foot.  The one wounded in the duel was sulking over a tankard of ale sitting alone in the darkness.
A couple of weeks have passed since the infamous duel. The tiny tavern was hopping as customers entered. Smoke curled out the door when it was opened. The sound of the three piece combo mingled with the blue smoky atmosphere dwindling to a slow rhythm after the jump and jive of minutes before. He was watching the couples holding each other tightly, sliding across the dance floor in front of him. He sat looking forlornly into the pewter tankard. He winced as a sharp pain raced up his leg. There was a hole, healing painfully, through his arch. He threw back the golden brew, put the pewter mug on the table and reached for his foot. This was the first night he'd put his shoes on since that morning.
“Waiter! Another one please!” he yelled over the band.
The drink arrived. He paid and downed it quickly.
Ah, for the days when alcohol went straight to his feet. Two drinks always brought on a case of HAPPY FEET. And now?  He didn't know. What would two drinks bring?
The combo began a second soft slow number. The noise of the crowd began to mellow in tune with the music. Several couples rose to dance. They began to glide with the rhythm. Those at tables fixated upon them. The music captured everyone.
‘I could have been out there,’ he was thinking to himself. ‘I don't think I'll ever be able to dance again. I can barely walk’.
The waiter brought another tankard.  “Thank you. Here you are,” he said handing the waiter change.
“Oh, no sir. It's been taken care of.”
Looking around the room he saw a man with red shining skin. His hair was slicked back from a prominent widow's peak. His thin face bore two sharp curving horns budding on each side of that widow’s peak. A smile burgeoned above the cone of chin whiskers.  A gloved hand raised a glass in the wounded man.  Our subject looked away. The man stood up, gathering his black cape and horned tail as he stepped from his stool.
Our “hero” did a double take. Horned tail?
“Hello, my friend. How are you?”
“How do you know me?”  he asked.
“Ah, you underestimate your notoriety. Everyone has heard about the famous duel. Too bad you've lost your, uh, ability to dance.”
“It's the wages of sin.”
“Oh, let's not be so hard on yourself,” said the man with the bifurcated tail. “ You only wanted to dance, right?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Nothin' wrong with that. eh?”
“I didn’t think so."                                                                                                                                    “So, miss it do you?”                                                                                                                                           “Miss what?”
“Dancing! Lamebrain!”
“Oh. Yes. Of course I do. So what?”
“Maybe I could help.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I'm talkin' about you dancing again.” 
“Yeh? How the hell you gonna do that?”
“Ah. Yes, hell. Well, we need to talk about that,” said the red skinned man.  “How much you want to dance again?”
“Anything. I’d do anything. I just gotta dance!”
The entire club shouts in unison, “GOTTA DANCE!!”
Ooh, it was a scene from Singing in the Rain.
The entire place went quiet.                                                                                                                             Red face leans in and softly said, “I can help you. You will be able to twirl a lady around on the floor again in no time.”
“Sure, buddy. How many you had?”
“No, I'm serious.”
“Yeah, right,” said our retired dancer. He looked away his eyes fell upon the door as it opened. It was his old dance partner. She walked in with her husband, the second duelist.
“Yes!” cried our crippled dancer. “ Gotta dance!” he shouted, looking in her direction.
“GOTTA DANCE!!” everyone in the room chimed in.
“Here. All you have to do is sign this contract and you can dance like never before. I guarantee it.”  The paper floated onto the table.
He looked at his rival’s wife.                                                                                                                   “Give me that pen,” he shouted in his eagerness. “Wait!  That looks like a syringe needle.”
“Of course it is. This contract must be signed in blood.  Such a small detail.  Surely you won’t let that stop you.”
The woman he yearned for sat across the room. Not once had she looked in his direction.
“All right. All right. Here,” he stabbed himself with the nib point.  “Ouch!”  He dipped the needle in the spot of blood emerging from his thumb. “There. It's done.” He handed back the parchment.
“Now, Gotta dance!” He sprang to his feet.
“GOTTA DANCE!!!!” eched everyone in the room.
“A drink for my friend,” said Redman placing the contract into a briefcase that appeared with a puff of smoke.
The crippled man  took the drink, throwing it back He wiped his mouth and slammed the glass onto the table top. He looked around the room and there stood a lithesome beauty in a green sheath wrapped with  swaying fringe moving to the rhythm of the music. That last drink turned into HAPPYFEET and he electraglided to the woman in slinky green vibrating beside her table.
“Gotta Dance!”  he sang as he held his hand out to her .
“GOTTA DANCE!!!” Everyone sang and rose from their seats. Couples flowed to the dance floor. The music played, the couples danced. The energy of the entire bar increased as the music captivated all.
He was still standing hand outstretched. She side stepped him leading her husband onto the dance floor.
“Dammit,” said our newly enlivened dancer.
He looked around the room. Every couple was dancing. There was only one person seated at a table. She was across the room. Their eyes met.
Yes, it had to be. He walked directly across the room. He held out his hand and she took it. The dance floor was full. The music was mesmerizing. The table beckoned. He picked her up and carried her to the top of the tallest table.
And there they danced.
His partner’s husband stepped out of the men's room. He looked at his table.           Empty.                                                                                                                                  Now where could she be? Then he saw them.  They were enmeshed, the two of them undulating to the rhythm of the music...
 That’s when I dozed off.  I awoke to a crow’s voice high above in the pine above.  I looked into the window.  It wasn’t there.  The little people’s night club had become a pile of leaves clumped around a young sapling.  A trail of ants marched along beside the leaves to a small carcass crawling with them.                                                                                                     I sat up.  The entire village had been dismantled.  A fairy ring of mushrooms encircled me.  There was no proof that a village of little people was ever here.  The only movement was the boiling rhythm of the ants picking the bones clean at the end of their life line. One line marching to and a second line marching away carrying bits of protein ripped from the tiny bones.  Was this the end of the dancing fiend or of an angry husband?  Will there ever be another chance encounter of this tiny village of human foibles or was it simply a bit of cheese lying undigested?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A skunk in the marsh

"You can have that if you want."
A couple of the guys and I were helping this cute chick and her room mate move. She was pointing at a humongous glass bottle. It was thick and heavy, shaped like a huge bottle that should be capped. It could hold twenty gallons and was cumbersome. We barely fit it in the car but I thanked her and carried it home.
"Whatcha gonna do with that?" asked G---.
"We're gonna make beer," I answered with a smile.
"Yeah, we can make our own brew. Read about it in organic chemistry. College comes in handy at times. It doesn't take much."
"Well, I'm game," said G---. "How do we go about it?"
"First we'll have to find a place to hide this vat."
All along Folly Road we tried to come up with a hiding place. Finally, G-- said, "We can hide it where we always do. The hollow tree next to your house. That booze has been there for a long time. Nobody's found it yet."
"True," I said. I had no idea my dad had found the cache of liquor long before but never said a word. It was years later he told me he had stumbled across the bottles in the bag of cotton weave. He never said much.
"Let's go stash this while my folks are at work." Why I thought my parents would mind if I made beer I don't know. It was a hold over from high school. I'm betting my dad would have been curious about the brewing of beer and joined in. It could hae been fun.
Arriving at the house we pulled the vat from the car and stashed it beside the tree which was partially hidden by the heavy growth of weeds in that lot.
"So, whatta we need now?"
"Some malt extract and sugar. Like I said, it ain't much," I told G-- as we climbed back into the car. "We should be able to find that at the Pig."
"They sell beer mixin's?" G-- was astonished. Me? I was playing my superior knowledge to the hilt.
"Oh, yeah. We get a can of malt extract, a bunch of five pound bags of sugar and we got beer in about a week." I smiled, proud of my college education. We arrived at the Pig.
Inside I pointed at the shelf.
"See? That's it. That's what we need. I'll get this while you get the sugar," I said reaching for the can on the top shelf.
"Maybe I better get that," said G-- easily reaching the can. My jumping to reach the top shelf was his cue to pick it up since he was a foot taller. The sugar, which was on the bottom shelf, was more my speed. He chuckled as I picked up four bags.
"That's it?" he asked incredulously.
"Yup, that's it."
"Is this legal, Rick?"
"Who cares," said I. "We get free beer in a week. You worried?"
"Nope, just curious."
We rolled the cart to the register. The girl rang up the contents.
"Is that all?" she asked.
"Yup, that's it." I took the bag and we walked to the car. I was looking back to see if she might be calling the police. She took no further notice of us. I shoved th bag in the back seat. We drove back to the house.
"How are you going to get that stuff into the vat?" G-- was always so practical.
"We'll pour it in."
"That opeing is mighty small. Won't you need a funnel?"
I looked at him. I turned the car around to drive to the hardware store. We went in to find a funnel.
"I got one," said G--. We paid for it and headed back to the hous.
"You got a cork to put in that opening?"
"A cork?"
"Yeah, won't you have to close it up?"
I looked at him. I turned th car around to return to the hardware store.
"Weren't you just here?" asked the clerk.
"Yeah, we're looking for a cork now. About this big," I gestured.
"Over there in the fishing tackle." He pointed the way.
"Now we're set."
G-- smiled.
Upon arriving at the house, G-- took the ingredients and the funnel to the hidden vat.
"Hey, get a can opener," he yelled at me.
I joined him next to the vat, can opener in hand.
"While I'm pouring this into the jug, why don't you start bringing water out?'
"Oh, yeah. We'll need water."
He punctured the malt can and turned it up to the funnel sitting in the neck of the vat. It slowly glugged into the funnel.
I returned carrying the largest pot I could find full of water.
"This stuff is still draining. It's thick."
"Maybe we can dilute it with the water."
I poured some into the funnel. It helped a little. After fifty trips G-- said, "Can't you think of some other way to fill this thing? It isn't even half full and you've been back and forth a lot."
"Kin try it."
I walked to the spigot. The hose was attached but wouldn't quite reach. We corked the vat and piled into the car. Back to the hardwares store we went.
"You guys again?"
"Yup, we need a hose now."
G-- had picked up the longest coil of hose they had.
"This ought to do it," he said.
Back at the house I attached it to the one already along side the house.
G-- turned it on. Out came brown water.
"Yuck. That doesn't look good," G-- said.
"It'll clear up." Soon enough it was clear water gushing out.
"I don't know, Rick. That doesn't seem so good."
"That yeast will be producing alcohol. Alcohol kills germs. No problem."
"Yeast? You never said anything about yeast," said G--.
I looked at him. We turned off the water, corked the vat and climbed into the car. At the Pig we chose packets of yeast and paid at the front. The same cashier looked at us funny.
"Think she's suspicious?" I asked, looking back as we left.
"Of what? That we are stupid. I think she's already figured that out. Now, is there anything else we need before getting back to the vat?"
"Nope. This should do it."
At the house G-- dropped in the yeast from the packets while I turned the water on. The hose delivered enough water to fill the jug quickly. I carried the hose back to the spigot. I turned off the water and returned.
G-- slapped the cork into the neck giving it a couple of hard hits to hold it tight.
"We don't want anything getting into that brew," he said with one final hit.
Each day after filling it we checked to see how our beer was coming along.
The third day, as we were walking to the spot, there was a loud boom followed by a crack above us. A limb dropped next to the vat. We ran to the jug. The air was pregnant with fermentation. The cork was gone. The carbon dioxide build up had shot it into the treetop hard enough to break a small limb which lay at our feet.
"Man am I glad I wasn't standing over that thing. It coulda killed us. What do we do now?"
"Oh, yeah. Gas build up," I said lost in thought. "We should have had a top that allowed for gas build up. Some muslin or cloth of some kind to cover it while allowing for gas release. I forgot."
"Your forgettin' is a pain in the ass, Croucher. Let's go get some muslin."
We found some that day and placed it over the jug. We contacted another friend who had a bottling apparatus so we could bottle and cap our concoction.
Seven days later we decided it was time enough. We siphoned off a glass.
"It's kinda cloudy, G--. Whatchoo think?"
"Give it a taste."
"Here, why don't you try it. You're the beer connnysewer."
"Let's let it sit a bit so that stuff floatin' can settle."
"OK. Let's set up the bottler and start putting it up. That stuff can settle in the bottles like a fine wine."
"Sounds alright." G-- got the bottles lined up and the capper at the ready.
I sucked on the hose to get the flow going into the bottles.
As it started I was spitting out the grit floating in the brew.
"Ptui. Ptui. That's nasty stuff."
"You mean the beer is nasty?"
"I don't know all I tasted was the stuff floating around. It's collected in my teeth. Yack."
"Might as well use up the bottles here," said G-- sticking the syphon hose into each bottle neck lined up.
I picked them up and clamped a metal cap on each. We lined up all the bottles we had filled.
An hour later we popped a cap off one of the bottles. The aroma of fermetation assaulted our noses.
"Whew! Man does that stuff stink."
"OK, here goes." I tilted the bottle and took a large gulp. That mouthful reversed itself. Out sprayed brown liquid.
"GACK! Oh, awful. Hack cough."
"What the hell, Croucher? You just sprayed me all over."
"Here. You try it."
Hesitantly he sipped at the bottle neck. A split second later he sprayed me.
"Oh crap. That tastes like shit!"
We continued to spit as we looked at the long line of bottled beer.
"We'll have to let the others taste this. Don't think I want anymore though."
"Me neither," I said. "Let's pour it out."
When we tipped the vat it hit a stone and cracked breaking into several pieces. The brew spilled into the ground swamping the air with the smell of fermentation. The sludge at the bottom of the vat oozed onto the ground forming a slick brown puddle. I waited til much later to clear out the broken glass.
When our buddies came over to try the beer they each reacted the same way.
A brown spray erupted from their mouths followed by the words, "That tastes like shit!" And they weren't far wrong being as alcohol is the waste product of the yeast organism.
One of my buddies picked up a bottle and threw it at a tree across the canal. It burst with a loud band and splatter. It seems the yeast was still working and each bottle had a large build up of carbon dioxide. We each took turns lobbing beer bottles like hand grenades at the tree across the way. Each landed with a boom and explosion of foam filling the air. The smell lingered on for a day or two causing my dad to sniff the air and wrinkling his nose as he walked outside.
"Must be a skunk or something over in the marsh," he'd say when he came in.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Uh oh, green...

Ours was a pharmacy lifted high above the basement setting the majority of them were delegated to. We were on the ninth floor with the most wonderful view Charleston had to offer. Out beyond that bank of windows were the rivers Ashley and, around the corner in the second series of windows, Cooper which Charlestonians jokingly referred to as a coming together to form the Atlantic Ocean.
This scenery, so far above the street below, provided us with a peaceful refuge in times of the high stress of pharmacy in the hospital setting.
The nely hired pharmacist sat next to a window typing the information required on a batch of labels to be stuck on the IV bottles that were to be prepared. Twenty Intravenous fluids were lined up under a hood with a sterile field for mixing. The labels were prepared by typing on an old electric IBM. Each bottle required two labels, one for the bottle and one for the paper workd accompanying the bottle.
As he typed away one of our pharamcists walked by, then stopped to watch. He stood there while the new pharacist finished the last of the forty labels and pulled them from the machine.
"Finished," he said. "It takes a long time to type that many labels, doesn't it?"
"Sure does," said the observer. "Can I see them?"
"Sure." The typer handed them to him. Each label was neat and orderly with all the appropriate information including a number, depicting the bottle sequence for each day, hand written in green magic marker. It was the first time he had been given this particular job since he was newly hired and had just come off training.
"It's my first time doing these. I hope I did everything alright."
"It's a beautiful job. You got all the information in the right place. Your number sequence is right. Yup, a beautiful job."
The newby was beaming.
His face changed immediately. "Except? What do you mean? You just said they were pretty much perfect."
The observer looked at him a sadness in his eyes.
"Yeah, they are but you're going to have to do them over."
"What? You can't mean that! It took me almost two hours to finish those up. I'll be way behind if I have to type them over."
"I'm sorry," said the observer. "You used the wrong color magic marker."
"What? What do you mean, the wrong color?"
"Well here at St Francis we only have two offically sanctioned colors in the procedures book. They are blue and red. You've used green. These labels cannot be used with green. You can go look it up. I guess no one told you about that. Tell me who showed you how to do this. I'm going to have to have a talk with them. They should have been better at their job because now you'r going to have to redo all these labels which means you'll probably have to stay late today in order to finish these and get them to the floor.'
The newby was blustering his objections. Behind the shelves the pharmacists and technicians within earshot were snickering.
"Well, I can't. I need to start mixing those fluids. They're due soon. Can't I just use thse labels this once? It can't hurt."
"I'm sorry. The boss is a stickler for everything being absolutely perfect."
"Surely she'd make an exception? Just this once?"
"No, I don't think so. You'd better get started if they are due soon."
The laughter behind the shelves was coming loud and clear now.
"Well, I'm not doing it. I'm using those labels." He was adamant.
"It's up to you. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes if the boss finds out, though. But if that's what you want, go ahead."
He got up snatching the labels out of the observer's hands. Hesitating he looked at the labels, then at the shaking head of the observer. He started toward the IV room, stopped. "Are you sure?" he asked.
The observer nodded. "Oh, I'm sure. I got my butt raked over the coals for doing something similar when I first came here."
The newby looked at him. Resignation sank in and he sat in front of the typewriter. Sliding the new labels into the roller he looked up, "I'm going to go ask her. I think she might let it go this time."
"It's your funeral," said the observer.
The newby leaned back in his chair. The inner conflict held him motionless. A minute of thought was punctuated by his rising and taking the forty labels in hand. He looked down the long hallway toward the boss' office. His face set hard to enter the lion's den he began walking slowly toward the office, labels trailing behind. He was stopped in his tracks as the entire pharmacy exploded into laughter.
Two pharmacists were doubled over. Techs were knee slapping and guffawing. The observer, twinkle in his eye, grinned at the newby.
"What's going on?" asked the newby.
"It's a joke," said the observer, chuckling. "There is no regulation color. I was just kidding. Those labels are fine. Go ahead and finish your work. I was just having a little fun."
The newby stared. He didn't understand the joke. He was still wanting to discuss it with the boss who was coming out of her office. We could tell she was wondering what the commotion was all about.
Smiling she asked, "What's happening?"
The newby spoke up before anyone else. "I used an unofficial color magic marker numbering the labels I typed up for the IV's. See." He held them up to her. She took them.
"I'm not sure I understand," she said.
"It's my fault," said the observer. "I told him that green was not a color approved by the hospital."
"What are you talking about? We don't have specific colors for magic markers." She was looking at the observer. Then it dawned. Understanding finally arrived. She eyed him with a modicum of disapproval.
"This is fine. You can use these labels," she said handing them to the newby. "YOU!" she said to the observer. "In my office."
laughter regaled the observer as he shrugged and followed the boss into her office.
The newby, his action vindicated, marched into the IV room ignoring the laughter all around him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You'll believe a boy can fly...

Lemme share this again:

"I don't know if I want to do that."
"Sure you do," Clyde said. "Now go get a towel and I'll tie it around your neck."
It was the mid 50's and Superman was on the TV as well as on radio and in funny books. Superman, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.
"Look! Up in the sky!" And that is where we were looking, Clyde and I. Up at the sky filled with the roof over the garage at my grandmother's. A sky full of Martins flying, to and fro, to the gourds higher than the roof fluttered nearby.
"Did you get the towel?"
I came running from the back door, screen slamming behind me.
"How about a safety pin to hold it around your neck?"
I handed it to him.
"Yeah, nef." Being his nephew and he was four years my senior, he called me nef.
"How come you want me to go first?"
"You're smaller and lighter. That towel as a cape will help you stay aloft longer than heavy me. I'll get some pointers as I watch you sail along and I can compasate for my extra muscles and stuff."
I was never smart enough to see the illogic of his logic. He was my hero and I believed every word he said.
"OK. I got the ladder set up on the side of the garage over there, so go on up."
"Aren't you coming up too?" I asked.
"Heck no. How am I going to see the errordynamicals of your flight from above?"
"Well, I ain't going up there by myself."
"Don't say ain't, nef. There ain't no such word."
"But you..."
"Come on. I'll hold the ladder while you climb up."
"Yeah, nef?"
"Didn't granddaddy say never to go up on the roof of the garage?"
"Yeah, he did, but I checked out the underside of the roof and there ain't no weak spots that you could fall through. So, I'm sure he won't mind since it's safe and all."
"Oh, OK."
"Come on. First one rung then the next. One at a time. There you go. You're doin' good, nef."
About halfway up I froze.
"Now what's wrong?"
"I'm scared. I don't want to go any higher."
"Don't be a baby."
"Are you coming up?"
"Oh, alright, but you'll have to let me come back down so I can observe real scientific like."
"Go on. I'm coming right up."
I slowly crawled up the ladder, rung by rung, holding on for dear life. I climbed over the last rung and onto the slanted roof. I lay flat my arms spread out staring up at the sky while Clyde came bounding over the top of the ladder and landed heavily on two feet.
"OK, nef. Lemme show you where I think is the best place for lift off.
I crawled to the spot he was showing me.
"Alright. you stand here..."
"Stand? I don't think I can do that."
"Sure you can. Don't be a baby. Stand here and let me get down below so I can observe real clear like."
I got to my feet, shoes angling to the ground far below.
"Look at that cape flowing in the breeze. Just like Superman. OK, hang on. I'm going down now. Don't jump before I say."
He scrambled down the ladder. I stood at the edge of the roof in the afternoon breeze with rippling cape, uh, towel, around my neck. Finally, Clyde was on the grass in front of me far below. He was looking anxiously at the road then back at me.
"OK! Let's do this fast. All you gotta do is launch yourself outward like Clark Kent after ripping off his shirt. Just pretend you're jumping through the window of a tall building."
"You sure about this? I won't just fall and hurt myself?"
"Heck no. You've got that towel cape."
I heard a car door slam under the roof.
"I don't know. I don't think I can do it."
"Sure you c..."
"What the...? Clyde, what are you doing?" It was my grandmother. "What are you looking at?" She looked up at the roof to see me standing on the edge. Panic sprang ot her face.
"Rickey! Don't you jump. Sit down right now." She turned to my uncle.
"Clyde, you get up there right now and get that child down from there. Do you hear me?"
He nodded and started toward the ladder.
"Where's your father?" She shouted at him.
"He went fishing. He said it would be OK since we were just playing."
"I said get that child down this minute!"
"But I can't go on the roof. Dad said..."
"I don't care what your dad said. Get that child off that roof this instant!"
"Hey, nef. Come on down."
"I'm scared. I can't move."
"Go up there and help him."
He climbed up and walked me over to the ladder. He told me to stay there until he could get down and hold it for me. And that's why he was my hero. He was always thinking about my safety.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

They were told there would be cake...

Sixty-six years on planet Earth. That's my accomplishment this particular rainy day. I decided to celebrate by taking a cake into the hospital for all my old friends at work. And for me? I placed a letter on the manager's desk asking to be taken off the roles of the PRN workers meaning all ties with my job are now severed. I'm retired completely. I like the feeling.
Dougy had the coffee brewing when I arrived. A few packets of Cremora in a cup sloshed down with his dark brew which he says, "I won't have a cup, Rickey. I'm down to one a day now."
I wouldn't expect him to drink a cup after a night shift. He has to sleep. Coffee would have been the wrong thing for a long winter's nap.
Saw the Scottman while there. He came in to head up the OR. His day began bright and early. Doug's was almost over. We sat waiting for his relief. Trey came mozying in while I typed out my letter of resignation. He is now living in my neck of the woods in the beautiful subdivision of Riverland Terrace. I know he will be happy there.
Lisa was there early and sliced into the cake. She wanted to get a head start because the dish needed cleaning in the near future. It's always been her wont to wash the dish. I think it's because she can get the last piece of cake before the dish is empty.
Anniefe was there. She had recently returned from down town. She looked happy to be back.
I let Gen know there as cake in the wreck room so she wouldn't miss out this time.
I found an envelope for my letter. Into it I placed my badge and keys, keys I'd had for fourteen years. It just occurred to me how many years the hospital has been West of the Ashley.
Personally, I preferred the old building on Rutledge Ave. We had the best view in Charleston. In moments of total frustration, boiling the blood through the top of the skull, we could go stand at the window and gaze over the Ashley River and its boundaries of marsh to the east. Or we could look to our left and see the Cooper River joining the Ashley River to make the Atlantic Ocean. Peace would settle. We could turn back into the fray with renewed vigor. Plus, going to work was a ten minute ride in the morning, whereas now, it is thirty or more minutes to arrive.
All that is of no consequence now. I am free. When in the PRN Pool I always felt a nagging obligation to go in, though the last time I did was June of last year. That nagging feeling is gone now. Maybe I'll finally settle down to painting. Maybe. We'll see.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jest a tetch...

"Wake up, nef! There's a hurricane coming." In the doorway stood my uncle. For the last couple of days the weatherman had hinted at a hurricane possibly passing through South Carolina.
"Huh? What?" I had been in a deep sleep. Outside the wind was swishing the limbs of the oaks that stood beside the house. It was darker than it should have been.
"Is it here? Now?"
"No, but it's close. Get dressed. We got some riding to do."
I watched him raise his plastic cup my way. That crooked smile offered a full day. I flung the covers aside. My socks were on the floor. My pants and shirt were on the bed post. In minutes I was dressed. Clyde was pouring another drink.
"Got any coke in this ice box?"
"I think there should be a bottle in there. Got a cup for me?"
It was about nine in the morning. The wind was rattling the windows. Rain was sheeting the road in quick gusts. Spanish moss ripped from oak branches flew past the picture window at the front.
"Looks like it's already begun," I said tilting the Calverts Extra into my cup. "Did you find the coke?"
"Yeah. Not much here. I'll have to put more Calverts in to fill the cup." His smile grew along with the twinkle in his eye.
"I think I need a little more coke than that."
"No problem, nef. We'll head by the Pig first."
My parents were at work so there was no one to tell good bye. We made a quick dash to the car shielding our cups from the rain. They were already diluted enough.
"That wind isn't very strong." My keen observation was interrupted by the snap of a tree limb behind us.
"Get out and get that, will you , nef?"
"I don't want to get out in that rain."
Clyde looked at me. "We won't be going anywhere if that limb isn't moved."
"It looks big. Maybe you should help."
"I'm driving and mixing the drinks," Clyde said with that smile.
I pushed the door against the wind. "That wind must have picked up. I might get blown away."
"A chance we'll have to take if we're gonna ride the storm."
"Guess you're right." I forced the door wide enough to slip out into a blast of rainfall. I ran dodging gouts of Spanish moss liberated from oak limbs. The limb lay across the drive. Grabbing it above the splintered end, I dragged it to the side of the road at which time I was gobsmacked by a juicy bit of Spanish moss.
"Crap!" I shouted pulling the wet mass from my face. I ran to the passenger side of the car. Clyde was backing as I jumped in.
"Careful, nef. You'll get my seat wet."
"You sorry..."
"Have a drink, nef. It'll warm you up."
He gunned it. The roar brought faces to the windows along the street. We pushed on through the intermittent slaps of rain. The street was deserted. Everyone with any sense was battened down and snug in their houses stocked up for the aftermath. We cheerfully sipped at our cups and sailed along the roads slick with sheets of water flowing into ditches filling quickly. The rain beating on the windshield had become heavy along with heavier gusts pounding the glass so hard we thought it might crack. That worry faded with the sight of the bottom of my cup.
"So how long before we get our mixer?"
"It's kinda hard to see the road at the minute, nef."
"It isn't like the road is crowded. You can go faster than this."
"Maybe you could, but I'm driving. I'd like to get us there."
The wipers were working hard to clear the glass of water. It was almost like driving through a river. The view of the road was obliterated each time the wipers swiped up then down. I could tell Clyde was having trouble seeing the road.
"At least you aren't soaked to the skin."
"One more stop light and you can run into the Pig for some mixer."
"What do you mean me?"
"Well, you're already soaked to the skin. You just told me that. No need in both of us getting wet. Besides I'm driving."
Once more I forced the door open to jump out right into a puddle.
"Oh, damn." The words came out as if I had dry shoes on. Into the store and out again since no one else was out in this. Two large cokes in the plastic liter bottles filled the soggy bag.
"Watch it, nef! You're getting my seats wet again."
"What did you expect?" I shouted at him. He was pouring booze into his cup.
"Why don't you pour some of that mixer in here. Yeah. Whoa now. You don't want to weaken it too much."
I wanted to pour it into his lap but tipped it over my cup that he had so generously filled with Calverts.
"OK," he said cranking the Ford. "Beach or Battery?"
"Let's try the Battery first. They might close the bridges before it's over."
"Good point. The battery it is."
Over the Wappoo Cut bridge we drove through more sheeting rain. The road on the other side was flooding so he had to take it slow. A spray of water cut by the wheels splashed over the road side as we drove steadily on. The Ashley River bridge was void of cars. We did pass the occasional car but the driver would always be hunched over the wheel driving at an ant's crawl. When we would drive past our wake would riddle his windshield with a heavy spray causing his crawl to a stop until his wipers could cart off the water layer. A hand gesutre usually followed such a stop but we paid no mind lifting our cups and looking ahead to the show of nature's fury against the wall of the battery to come.
We turned the corner that took us to the road beside the battery wall. It was flooding so he drove along the higher side. We left a wake behind us as we traveled on. There were waves crashing against the wall to our right. We were startled by the boom of a wave curling six feet above the railing and crashing into the street ahead of us.
"Wow! That was a beauty!" I shouted. Clyde slowed to watch chopping water in the Ashley River.
"That was something. Let's go on up to High Battery. That'll be eve more spectacular."
The car moved slowly through the water rippling across the road in front of us. We arrived at the steps leading to the high sidewalk facing Ft Sumter.
"Time to get wet, nef," he said leaning into the door. He was out and bounding up the steps as a heavy gust of wind lifted the river up and over the walkway in a bone rattling crash against the wall. The curl of the wave broke, plastering him to the walkway. I started out but he waved me off slipping down the steps running back to the car.
"Hey! Watch it, unc. You're gonna get your seats wet!" I laughed.
'Button it, nef. What a blast that was." As he spoke there was aloud boom above us. Sparks flew all around. We looked up through the winshield to see a huge cloud of smoke with sporadic electrical arcs playing in the rain around the transformer that had just exploded.
"Well, time to head to Folly." He cranked the Ford and made a U-turn. The road was filling quickly now. We could feel the waves tapping the doors as we moved as quickly as possible back down the road we came in on.
"Hit the radio. Let's see what the weather man says about all this."
I turned it on.
"Don't go out if you have no need. The streets are flooding. There are limbs across some major roads at this time and electricity has been lost to West Ashley due to fallen lines. I repeat. Stay indoors. Don't venture out except in an emergency. These roads are dangerous. There are policemen out stopping cars. They will tell you to go home and stay put. This storm is going to get worse.'
"Maybe you'd better get us out of town fast. We don't want to see a cop."
"I'm moving as fast as I can. We're going to make it to Folly, watch the waves, then go home. Fix me another drink, will ya."
"Sure," I said downing what was left in my cup. "I thimk I might be gettin drunk."
"That's the plan. I'll take that." He took the cup from my hand and I poured my own.
It seemed we were the only two on the road. We hadn't run into any policemen as we came off the Ashley River Bridge headed for Windermere. The lights were out so we had to inch across intersections. The rain continued a steady pounding of the car with bursts of heavier rainfall. The windshield wipers were slap slapping at full speed with hardly any change in visibility, which was extremely poor at this time. We saw a police car at the intersection of Windermere behind a lone driver. He was outside the window in his raincoat bent in toward the driver, probably telling that fool to go home. We picked up speed as we passed. The road was clear ahead.
On the other side of the Wappoo Cut Bridge we slowed for the light at the intersection because it was not working. There was no traffic anywhere so Clyde gunned across. Folly was just a few miles away. We dodged a couple of limbs that had settled in the street. I looked for the trees that had let them go to the wind but we were past them by that time.
The electricity was out on James Island the radio announcer told us. He said the hurricane would pass through in the next couple of hours and that the wind would begin to drop but high gusts would continue through the night.
"If it's going to pass we'd better step on it to get to the beach."
"We'll get there, nef. If it's the last thing we do, we'll get there."
"Right," I said downing my cup. "Finished yours?"
"Yeah, I could use a topper upper." I took his cup and poured half and half then returned it.
He tried it.
"When'd you start mixing them so watery?"
"Here. I can put more in."
"Well, if you insist. I'll take jest a tetch," he said, quoting James Garner in the film just out, The Wheeler Dealers.
I filled the cup.
"That's better."
The marsh on each side of the road was grey with water white capping along the top of the marsh grass. The tide was in high enough to begin creeping across the road. Once again we were leaving a wake in our rear view.
"We better get over fast or we might not be able to get back home."
"If we can't, we've got plenty of mixer," he said holding up the unopened liter.
We crossed the last bridge to Folly and drove along the main street. It was deserted except for the palms blowing wildly in every direction. The wires above were humming in the steady wind from the sea in front of us.
We parked. Opening the door was a struggle but we managed. Leaning into the wind we pressed on to the beach. The waves were magnificent. Mother Nature at her wildest best. The sucking of sand back into the sea was almost visible to the naked eye. Heavy swells of rolling ocean burst upon the dunes then were pulled back beneath the next wall of pulverizing wave. The spray whitened the advancing clouds of grey and black. The rain poured from the roiling clouds erasing the horizon and joining the sea and sky into a grey continuum. We were being savagely whipped by wind and rain that had become one. The sea leapt into the air freeing salt spray to accompany the rain and wind providing the taste of tears as if the area had been beaten into submission. We were lashed from all sides as we stood at the top of the sodden dunes. Sea oats whipped into a frenzy lashed across us. It was a most beautiful display of nature's fury.
Both of us were losing the battle as the wall of wind frm the sea pushed us backward. We looked at one another then turned and ran to the car.
"Wow! What a thrill!" Clyde said turning the key. We sat, the throb of the engine lost to the mighty blowing of the wind, and watched the waves rolling forward and crashing into the coast, wave after wave. We were mesmerized.
"OK," said Clyde. "I think we should be getting home now." He turned the car around. As he moved forward there was a crackle and loud pop. Just above us one of the humming wires had broken loose. It slapped the road in our path. It whipped around like a snake whose tongue turned to darting sparks. It blocked our path home. Clyde put it in reverse backing for the road to our right. He turned and drove one block, turned left and drove two blocks before turning left again. We stopped at the main road and looked in the direction of the ocean. The line from the pole was still bouncing along the road way whipping sparks in all directions.
"One more for the road, nef."
I agreed. I poured it like Clyde always told me, "Pour it like it ain't yours, nef."
One more generous helping and we headed back to the house. We were soaking wet, totally intoxicated and happy to know that God looks after fools and drunks because we were both.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Blowing in the wind

"That was my last class," I said, as I tossed my books into the tan can, "and it's only one o'clock." I was telling my buddy M--- who was coming through the library gate. The corvair, or the tan can, was parked in its usual space next to the gate.
"Got time to head of over to the Student Union for a cup of coffee?" he asked.
"Don't see why not," I said, falling in step with him. "You wanna drop your books in my car?"
He had a pile of books in addition to a stack of albums.
"You got records there?"
"Yeah. I thought I'd use the record room to listen to a few Dylan songs."
"Who's Dylan?" My question brought a startled look from my friend. I wasn't up on the protest songs in the early days. I was still listening to the Beach Boys and the Beatles and all the other bands on the juke box at Folly pier.
"Who's Dylan? Good grief Croucher! You living under a rock?"
"Nope, James Island. And the occasional trip to the old stomping grounds at Folly. The Pier there has a great juke box full of dancing music. The beer's cheap, too." Who paid attention to protesters? They were none of my affair. If it included drinking and dancing, that's all that mattered to me. My world was tight and insular still untouched by the hippy revolution of California. The world was changing but I sure as hell wasn't. Viet nam and civil rights were so far away that my only touch was the news on TV which I never watched.
"Bob Dylan is the most important singer of our generation! You need an education, boy. Come on over. We'll get some coffee and listen to some geat music."
When music was involved I was there.
"Sounds good. Let's get something to eat first, though."
"Yeah, I could used a donut with my coffee."
The union was fairly crowded with students eating lunch before their next class. We slid into a booth previously occupied by two who were leaving. M-- put his stack of books and record albums on the table to show it was being used. With our claim made we walked over to the lunch counter to give our order to the girl at the grill. She grabbed two donuts and two cups of coffee for each of us. We dropped a couple of bills on the counter telling her to keep the change.
Sliding back into the seats of the booth we set our plates and cups down.
"So tell me about Dylan." I figured I needed some education about our social predicament that was spreading across the country. I picked up one of the album covers and stared at the picture of a skinny guy with a head full of dark frizzy hair sticking up in all directions.
"This guy wrote Blowing in the Wind?"
"Yeah, along with The Times They Are A Changing. Surley you've heard that one."
"Well, hell yeah. I know about that Hootnanny stuff. Kinda nice with just a guitar and banjo. Maybe a bongo thrown in. Sure can't dance to it that good though."
"This isn't dancing music. This is music to light a fire in your soul to make you want to initiate the change that's coming."
"I kinda like it the way it is."
"You do have your head in the sand. Rosa Parks. Ever heard of her?"
"Nope. She here at the College?"
"OK. Let's finish up our coffee. Then we'll go into the room over there and I'll give you the real education you should be getting here."
"Fine," I said sipping my coffee. He took a bite of his donut then sipped his coffee. I liked mine soaking in coffee but hated the crumbs it left in my cup. That prompted me to ask, "You mind if I dunk?"
He looked at me quizzically, "No. Why should I care?" returning to his donut.
I reached over and dunked mine in his cup allowing it to soak up the rich brown liquid.
"Thanks," I said biting into the soggy donut.
He was speechless. I'd never seen him speechless before.
I shrugged. "What? You said you didn't mind. I don't like the way it crumbles in my cup."
"Yeah, but..." He shoved his coffee to the side. "You..."
"Oh get over it," I said dunking the remainder of my donut into his abandoned coffee. "You should have said you minded."
His astonishment was forgotten as I asked again about Dylan.
"Come on. Let' go see if the record room is available."
He gathered the books and records then lead the way. There was no one in the room. He dropped his things on the coffee table and pulled out the first album.
"Since you know Blowing in the Wind and The Times I'll play this.'
He dropped it over the steel pole, slipped the stabilizer on the record and hit the switch. The needle dropped into the first groove. He lifted it and set it down on the track he wanted first.
Maggie's Farm came out of the speakers. Then came Subterranean Blues after which played Like a Rolling Stone. I sat quietly listening. Positively 4th Street blasted out the player as he turned up the volume. He changed the record to another, dropping the needle into the groove of Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. We listend to Bob Dylan for 4 hours straight. When Highway 61 Revisited faded away. I got up.
"I can't take this any more, M---."
"Nope. For the last hour I've been thinking about going home and putting a gun to my head. I can't take this Dylan guy anymore. He doesn't depress you?"
"Yeah, but that's alright because he's waking the nation up."
"To do what? All I know is that I've never felt this depressed in my life."
"It's because you are becoming aware of the harsh realities of this country and the need for change."
"Yeah, I need change alright. I need to change my listening mode to some music with a fresh beat made for dancing. I need to change my position to one on the pier at Folly to clear my head and fuzz it up with some beers before I do go home and end my life. Nope. Dylan ain't for me. You can keep him. Gimme the Beatles any old time. Or the Rolling Stones or the Beach Boys."
I ran to my car trying to get away from the oppressive cloud that followed me from the record room. Driving home I opened my window and stuck my head out into the rush of wind. Maybe that would suck out that dark cloud. The wind didn't, but the sea breeze blowing through the pier did as I sipped my beer. Now that's the blowing in the wind I can live with, I thought to myself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Straight as an Arrow

"Don't drag your feet, Rickey."
It was my momma telling me to walk properly, but I always liked to scuff along these old grey boards at Rodenburgs. Those floors had been worn down by years of leather shod feet trampling them. I don't think they had been polished, ever. The pine was laid when the store had first been built. The grain was not just a pattern in some areas, it had become bas relief but was never appreciated for its sculptural quality. It was walked upon only to be noticed by a five year old who was closer to the floor without interest in the shelves full of canned goods. My interest was taken from the floor boards when we rounded the corner and the Cocola machine was in sight. Then I'd start asking for a nickel to put into the slot to get one of those green curved eight ounce bottles full of carbonated sweetness. I'd only recently been introduced to the fizzy sweet liquid and it was a joy to tip the bottle and have the bursting bubbles pinprick across the tongue. I loved 'em.
Rodenburgs was a small grocery store on Spring Street. My mother would take me along when she shopped for the weekly groceries. We'd get a cart at the front door and head for the first aisle on the right. Those old dried pine floors from antiquity would take the wheels of that cart with a hollow rattle as they rolled along. Rounding the corner, I would look over at the counters that reached high above my head,searching for the Shredded Wheat boxes. It wasn't that I liked Shredded Wheat that much, it was the pasteboards separating the wheat blocks I wanted. On each was printed one of my favorite cartoon characters, Straight Arrow. Cowboy by day and indian by night or when a wrong needed to be righted. Straight Arrow! I'd head straight as an arrow for the shelf, stand on tiptoe and finagle a box down. It would fall right into my arms after which I would hand it to my mother.
"Here's the Shredded Wheat," I'd say, beaming with my accomplishment.
"Well, thank you, Rickey," she'd respond. "Any other cereals you want?"
"Can I get some Sugar Pops?" I'd seen those advertised by Mighty Mouse.
"We can try them." I'd look high and low until I saw them far out of my reach.
"There they are!"
"OK. Don't get so excited. I'll get them."
Into the cart they would go. I'd turn my interest back to the patterns in the floor boards since the Cocola machine was still at the other end of the store.
Sometimes the Rodenburgs reminded me of the Old Charleston Museum. It had a musty smell and there was dust floating in the sunbeams that found there way through the windows. The squeak of the floor boards echoed the sounds I remembered from the last trip we'd made to that old fossil home. The walls appeared the same as well with an old faded color that could have used some sprucing up. The smell was a little different though, especially around the meat counter in the cooler section at the back. The meats were separated from the customers by means of glass partitions holding in the cool of the ice lining the shelves on display. When we arrived there I knew the Cocola machine would be next. We'd be sipping on those drinks through the rest of our grocery time.
"Can we get one of those drinks from the machine?" I'd ask impatiently.
"Wait a minute. I have to talk to Mr. D--- about a roast. Sunday's coming and we have to have roast beef."
'Oh, gee. Roast beef. Blah,' I thought to myself. "Why can't we have fried chicken sometimes? All my frineds have it on Sundays. Why can't we?"
"Roast beef is tradition. Your dad has to have his roast beef. There are so few English traditions he can have. You might as well get used to Sunday dinner being roast beef right now. "
She was right. We had roast beef every Sunday for as long as my dad was alive. I might add that it was always cooked well done. We could have soled our shoes with a slice. The only way I ever liked it was two days after when the left overs were placed in a shepherd's pie. At least there was some gravy to give those tough cubes of meat some flavor.
The roast safely in the basket we'd roll over to the drink machine. Two nickels came out of my mother's coin purse to be placed into my hand. Onto my toes again I'd fumble my five cents in and hang on to the lever allowing my weight to pull it down. When my toes touched the floor I could hear the full bottle inside drop into the space below. I'd pick up the ice cold glass bottle and hand it to my mother then repeat the previous action to get mine. With both hands on it I'd slip the top into the opener on the side and pull down. A pop and a fizz would be followed by a clink as the cap dropped into the inclosed basket full of these cork lined bottle caps. My mother would usually catch hers and put it in her pocket. Later she would give it to me. I'd pry the cork lining carefully from the tin cap. After releasing the thin round circle of cork I'd place the cap on the outside of my shirt. The cork I'd place behind the cap underneath my shirt. When pressed into the Coke cap it would hold it in place like a badge. Fridays were always topped off with a Coke badge brightly shining against my chest.
The check out lady would pull the items across the counter, then stop to enter the price into the cash register. A boy behind her would pile the items into a paper bag to be toted to the car. My mother would reach into her coin purse and take out the five or ten dollars, depending on the size of the roast along with extras such as a six pack of beer or bag of candy, which she would hand to the lady. The change she'd place in her purse. She'd take the bag in one hand and my hand in the other. We'd walk to the car and drive home.
I'd always open the Shredded Wheat to remove the pasteboards separating the rows of wheat bricks, first thing, when we got home. They would keep me entertained until I was called for a supper of beans on toast, another English traditon. That one I enjoy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Turn away! Turn away!

I have a beard. It's covered my face for over thirty years. My daughter when young had never seen me without a beard and my son didn't remember my not having one. Anytime I went home for a visit my mother would say what mothers always say to their sons, "I wish you would shave that thing. I miss your face."
Personally I liked my beard. It covered my face. And there was always the fact that I didn't have to scrape that razor over my face every single morning.
"I think I'll shave my beard," I said to my, then, wife.
"Why?" she asked. "I'm used to it now."
"What about the kids? Don't they ever wonder what their daddy looks like?"
"They just know you as you have always been to them. A hairy faced man."
"Yeah, but I'm curious what their reaction would be."
"Why would you even care?" she asked.
"I don't know. Maybe I'm tired of looking at it myself. A change would do us all good. I think my mother would especially like the gesture."
"Yeah, well, if that's what you want to do."
"I'll think about it for a while."
Each morning for about a month I looked into the mirror and thought, 'Yeah, it would be a change." But I never actually took out the clippers to start on it. Laziness usually won out.
"Christmas is coming up," she, who must be obeyed, said. "Are we going to your folks' house this year?"
"Yeah, I'd like that."
We began to make plans for the holiday. I considered my face in the mirror as I had for the last month or two but once again shrugged and decided, 'Naah, too lazy.'
The drive to Charleston was long and the kids were getting cranky.
"It won't be too much longer and we'll be at your grandparent's," I said as we turned for Johns Island around 10 in the morning.
The kids jumped from the car and ran to the house. My folks came into the yard to catch a kid apiece. Everyone walked in as I began to unload the car. I opened the screen door to drag in the bags.
"Do you need some help?"
"No thanks, I got it now."
"Oh son we should have helped," said my mother playing with my son.
"It's OK. I got 'em all."
"Granddaddy's going to show me how to play patience," said Kyndall as I toted the bags to the back.
When I got back to the front I hugged my mother hello. It was her chance to say, "That beard is scratchy. How do you stand it, dear?" she said to her daughter-in-law.
"I'm used to it. He'll never shave it."
"He used to be so handsome without it. You sure you won't shave it off?"
"Mmm, I don't think so." That was that moment I decided I would. A Christmas present for my mother and a surprise for the kids. It might brighten up the day, I thought.
While everyone slept that Christmas Eve night I sneeked into the bathroom. I clipped and shaved until my skin was smooth. I looked thinner. Guess the whiskers were fuller than I realized.
That morning while the kids were excited about opening presents I slipped in without being noticed to sit in the small rocker in the corner.
"Look at this mommy!" yelled Kyndall excited about the gift she had just unwrapped. She looked up to see me sitting in the rocker and froze.
"Who's that man, mommy?" She pointed at me and everyone turned.
"That's your daddy," said Derek who had seen me clean shaven before this.
"He's scary," she said crawling into her mother's lap.
"It's OK, Kyndall. I'm still your daddy."
"Nuh uh. you're not my daddy." She seemed a bit afraid. "I know my daddy."
"I just shave off the beard, sweety. You'll get used to it."
The entire time my mother had been looking at my clean shaven face. She hadn't smiled once. This was my gift to her. For months, no, years, she had been telling me she wished I'd shave those whiskers so she could see her son again. Now she was frowning.
"Well, Merry Christmas," I said. "I shaved it off for you. Scared my kids but here's my face again. Your boy, clean shaven."
She didn't speak for almost two minutes. She just studied my face with that frown deepening.
"Maybe you should grow it back."
I am not able to explain the shock I felt at those words coming from my own mother's mouth.
"Maybe you should grow it back." They are burned into my brain.
I grew it back. Everyone seemed so much happier. My mother has never asked me to shave again. The fright must have been too much.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Who drew first?

They sat on my hips. Two weapons of carnage. Their silver barrels decorated with ornate patterns. Their handles of pearl shown white against the brown leather holding them close to my side. They were held firmly in place but not so firmly they couldn't be whipped free in a second. It happened rarely but when it was time to slap leather I cleared it quickly with a blast and spit of fire that left many lying in the dirt. I was paying for that now.
They were after me, hot on my trail. Their efforts had lead me here in this cavern. The opening was high and wide leading into the darkness in the back. I was standing to the side of the opening into that darkness hidden from the ones who had chased me in. My Colts were in my hands in preparation for the rush.
Beyond the opening I could see movement. From tree to tree they ran for cover, coming closer. I leaned out from my protection and blasted away. My shots went wild cracking into trees and ricocheting off rocks. Their approach was steady. My doom was nigh.
"Come out, waco. We got you surrounded."
I recognized the voice. It was Leroy the kid. His gun was as fast as mine. He had been trying to force my hand for months. I had ignored him. My only shots at him had been oral. His response was growing hatred.
"You don't have a chance so it's time to step out and face me like a man!"
"Yeah, you can't beat me any other way, Leroy!" I shouted. "You and your buddies ganging up on me. You'd never stand alone man to man."
"You are wrong, Waco. I'll stand alone face to face. Come out now and we can do this like real men."
"I don't trust you, Kid. Your gang will cut me down the minute I show my face."
"No they won't. You heard me boys, stand down. Me and Waco are gonna have it out here and now."
His goons answered his request by shouting out, "You got it Kid. We'll let both of you face down."
"And who's to say they won't blast me the minute I put a slug through your black heart, Kid?" I shouted out from behind my wall.
"If Waco wins this throw down, then you boys gotta let him go," shouted the Kid.
"That's fine with us!" they shouted back.
"Hahahah! Looks like your boys don't care too much about your life," I laughed.
"I think thy're hankerin' to have lunch and they are getting tired of our little feud. So come on out, Waco. Let's get it over with."
My out fit blended into the dark of the cavern. I pulled my hat down over my eyes to shield them from the sun. Adjusting my dual Colts I stepped into the sunlight. "Alright, Kid. It's finally come to this. Back up and give me some room."
Leroy the Kid back up several paces. He hitched his six shooter with a quick movement of his hands to settle it at his side. Planting his bowed legs firmly, he watched me mozy to my spot ten paces from him. Facing him I held my hands just above the butt of my guns.
"When you're ready, draw!" I said.
"I can't draw until you draw!" he shouted at me.
"Well, somebody's got to draw first."
"It ain't gonna be me."
"It ain't gonna be me neither," I said back.
"Oh come on!" Shouted one of the Kid's gang. "My mom's already called once for me to come home. You gotta stop thinking about the good guy code and draw."
"He's right," said the Kid. "I heard my ma too. If I don't show up soon, I'll get a whoopin'."
"Yeah? Ya ma gonna give you a whippin'? Better draw then so's you can git home to ya ma."
"You can't be draggin' my ma into this!"
"Oh yeah?" My mother was at work. If I wanted lunch I made it myself. She left the peanut butter and jelly within reach along with the bread right there on the kitchen table. I didn't even have to eat a lunch if I didn't wanna.
'So draw, Kid. If you don't your ma's gonna whip your butt. She'll probably make you pick the switch to do it. So draw!"
"You quit talkin' 'bout my ma!" Shouted the Kid. I saw his hand quivering right above his iron.
"Your ma's gonna whip your butt, hahahahahahahah!"
It was too much. Down went his hand for his gun. Up it came blasting. Mine was out of leather and into the air as I dropped to my knee. "Blam! Blam! Blam!" The caps rolled up popping with each pull of the trigger. "I got you! You're dead!" I screamed at the standing Kid.
"Nuh uh! You missed a mile."
"You never hit me 'cause I dropped to my knee and you were aiming at thin air. My shots rang true. You're deader than a mackeral."
"You tricked me."
"You drew first. You're the bad guy and bad guys always get what's coming to them," I stated. It was the code of the kid's west. Whoever drew first was the bad guy. He was always the one drilled for his treachery.
"I'm the good guy. I win!"
"How can you be the good guy dressed in black?"
"I'm Hoppy playing the part of Waco to draw you out into the light of day. So you're the bad guy and you're dead!"
"Yeah, black from head to toe with a heart of pure gold and a head for pure justice. Me and my hoss Topper ride the west searching out evil doers to bring them to justice. You just got yours."
"I gotta go, Rickey. That's the third time my momma's called out. I'll get you next time."
"I don't think so Leroy!" I laughed as he beat his retreat. I watched him run across the street and into his house. The screen door slammed behind him. "Don't slam that door!" I heard come from his house.
I turned and mozied up the steps. I had a jar of Peter Pan waiting for me along with a glass of Welch's grape jelly. One more sandwich and a washup would provide me with another jelly glass sporting my favorite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny, painted on the side.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl cancelled?

"Got chips?"
"Got barbecue?"
"Pork or beef?"
"Got pizzas?"
"On the way, pizza delivery."
"Got beer?"
"Do I got beer? See that keg? See those coolers?"
"Those barrels lining the far wall? And those stainless steel monstrosities? Are those refrigerators?"
"Yep. All of 'em packed with beer."
"How many people are you expecting?"
"My screen is the biggest in the neighborhood so everybody."
"Sure you got enough food?"
"See the tables? All of them have the middle leaf installed. The food trays will be ready well before the pre-pre-pre-game show."
"I think you may be ready."
"Did you hear that?"
"That boom?"
"Probably nothing. Car back fire in the next neighborhood maybe."
"Whoa! That's quite a wind rattling the windows. Maybe a sonic boom from a low flying jet."
"Honey! The lights just went off. Can you check the fuse box?"
"What? The hell you say!"
"Yeah, the kitchen light just blew and the stove isn't working."
"Alright, don't panic I'll check it out. Bring the flashlight, will ya buddy."
"Hmmm. The breaker is down. Maybe I got one refrigerator too many."
"Could be the stove, fridge, kegs and 72 inch screen are over suckin' too much power."
"There. That should do it."
"Nope. Still no power."
"Let's go next door. See if Hank has power."
"You know it's awful quiet out here."
"Looks like rain headed this way. Look over to the North there."
"Yeah, mighty dark cloud approaching."
"Hey, Hank. Did your electricity go off?"
"Yeah, it did. Tried to call the power company but no answer."
"Well, it is Sunday."
"True but they do have a computer that tells you if there is a problem and how long it will be before it's solved."
"Wonder why those jets are so high?"
"Those aren't jets. They look more like rockets."
"Which way are they headed?"
"Looks like they are going east."
"Wonder what the heck is going on?"
"Still got that portable that runs on batteries?"
"Yeah, Lemme get it."
"Hey my iPhone isn't working."
"It must be serious. Wait, are you Verizon or AT&T?"
"AT&T. Why?"
"That could be your problem. Not known for their dependability."
"Hey I found it. Got some batteries?"
"Better get that dust off first."
"Tune to CONELRAD."
"Huh? What the hell's that?"
"Don't they still have CONELRAD?"
"Man you must be from the 50's or something."
"Well turn to CNN."
"Hell, cable must be out. This thing is useless if it is. All the stations are HD now so this old thing won't pick up anything."
"How the hell are we going to watch the game if cable's out?"
"Probably won't be a game if those were missiles. Might be some kind of emergency. Then the game would be called off."
"No way. Super Bowl number 46? It's a tradition! It's a holiday! It's un-American to calloff the Super Bowl!"
"If that boom earlier was an attack or something I think it would out way Super Bowl."
"You're wrong! No way they're gonna call off the biggest game of the year especially the amount of money those people spent on commercials."
"Yeah, but if the country can't see 'em..."
"Whattaya mean? You think this is more than just the neighborhood?"
"It's possible. Could be the country is under attack. Those Iraynees have been threatenin' for aa while. They got the bomb by now since our prez let 'em. They got missiles too. You seen that article about them putting a satellite into orbit?"
"Huh? When'd that happen?"
"I don't know. Coupla weeks ago?"
"So they picked Super Bowl Sunday to attack?"
"Well, I don't know. Just offering the worst case scenario."
"Maybe we better join up?"
"Let's wait til after the game."
"I'm sayin' there might not be a game."
"Call up the prez and tell him to fire a few nukes over there. That should take care of them. "Then we can have the evening free to watch the game."
"I don't know. If they do that the prez will be interrupting the game to tell us what's going on."
"If he want's to get back into office he knows better than interrupt the Super Bowl. Mitt would have him on a platter if he done that."
"Yeah, Mitt's gonna kick his butt."
"You don't know that for sure. If there's a war we won't want to change horses mid stream."
"What the hell you talking about. Ain't no horses around. Sometimes I think you're buried in the 50's. This is the twenty-first century now. We are so much beyond horses."
"NO, what I'm trying to say..."
"Hey, quiet. The radio still works. Let's find a news station."
"Music. Music. Rap, I hate rap. Music. 50's. Hey here's something you can feel at home with. Rush. He's just too smart for me. I get confused by his innalekchul talk. Here we are."
"We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own..."
"Oh turn it. Get some news."
"All I get is music and talk show. Let's go back."
"We interrupt this music to bring you a special bulletin. It is reported that at 8:50 a huge flaming object, believed to be a meeorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey, twenty-two miles from Trenton."
"Oh, who cares?"
"Wait, listen."
"Why are you listening to that bunk. We don't care about meteors in yankee land."
"...I can see peering out of that black hole two luminous discs....are they eyes?"
"What the hell?"
"Good heavens, something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake...."
"They said there were metal cylinders with these critters coming out. It's more than Iraynees it''s...MARTIANS!"
"What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?"
"Can't it wait til after the game?"
"Ain't gonna be no game it there's Martians!"
"HEY! HEY! Slow down. It's a radio broadcast from 1938. You tuned in to Old Time Radio. Haven't you heard about Orson Welles and his Halloween broadcast?"
"Good thing You got a guy caught up in the 50's. Ain't it? Call the power company again, Hank."
"OK. Thank you. Hey Guys. It's alright. A squirrel go caught up in a relay station and shorted out the entire region."
"They gonna get it fixed before the game?"
"They got eight trucks out. All eight guys will be back in their living rooms watching the game with us he assured me."
"Well we coulda flattend those Iraynees by five anyway. Games not on til six or so."
"Yeah, but all that pregame stuff.. We'da missed it."
True enough. Let's go get a beer."
"It's only eight AM."
Yeah, but it's Super Bowl Sunday."
"True Enough."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A new blog to follow

Those of you who enjoy talented artists, you have to go to the new blog amongst those I follow.  Go to this site and be completely blown away. 

You won't be disappointed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Whattaya mean it ain't ready?

"We have a pill for that."
"Do you? I want more than just an aspirin or tylenol. I think it's beyond advil as well," she said.
"Anything else would require a prescription ma'am," I responded.
"You couldn't maybe slip me one of those stronger ones?" Her wink was very suggestive.
"No ma'am. You need to see your doctor. It's the only way."
"Fine. Do what you do best and direct me to the chicken wings." I pointed to aisle 6.
"Over there in the freezer department." She left in a huff.
I resumed my typing.
"Hey, buddy!"
I was almost fininshed with the label for prescription number twelve of the forty-three lined up to be filled.
"Hey, you! Behind the counter."
"I'm so sorry, sir. I was distracted by the work I have to do back here." I turned my full attention to my customer.
"What can I do for you sir?" I leaned towards him.
"I got this problem."
"I need you to look at it. Lemme behind the counter."
"I'm sorry, sir. That isn't allowed."
"But I gotta show you my problem."
"Wel, go ahead. Show me."
"It's kind of embarrassing, doc. It's..."
"I'm a professional. You can show me." I said this thinking it was probably a rash on his stomach. I was new to this retail pharmacist role having passed my boads only a few weeks prior to this conversation.
I was wrong.
"OK. If you say so." The man in front of me unbuckled his belt and tugged his zipper down dropping his pants. Next his underwear.
"I got this rash here. Can you see it? Get closer, doc. It's driving me crazy."
The woman an aisle over fainted. The three on the next aisle were gathering for the show. The manager who normally sat in his boxed window above the floor was running down the aisle.
"Stop that!" He yelled. The ladies were sniggering as a crowd gathered.
"Uh, I think you better put that away. Your best bet is a doctor. That looks like something that is gonna need more than you can get over the counter."
He quickly pulled his pants up and rebuckled his belt. "So you can't do nothin'?" he asked.
"I'm sorry. That needs a doctor's attention."
"Can you give me some idea what's wrong down there?"
"I would hate to hazard a guess at this point. I suggest you go to the doctor's office down the street. He'll take you in. Tell him I sent you." Our friend Dr. H-- was a block away and we had good relations with him.
"You should go now." My suggestion sounded like an order because I saw the uniform come through the front door. "And try to slip past that cop. He isn't one to appreciate the professional consult in this instance."
"Oh, OK doc. See ya," he said making a hasty retreat through aisle two.
The policeman rapped on the counter.
"Yes, officer?"
"I hear tell you got a prevert 'spozin' himself back here."
"No, officer. Nothing of the kind. An over zealous customer who had me look at a rash in a delicate place. It was a misunderstanding."
"So what's these ladies giggling about?"
"You'd have to ask them, sir. I have to get back to work." With that I returned to my typewriter. I had a tech who was supposed to be in by this time. I took a minute to call.
her phone rang over and over so I hung up after twenty rings.
She tapped me on the shoulder.
"Yike!" I jumped.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
"Where the heck have you been? We've been open for two hours. Can you see how far behind I am?"
"Maybe if you didn't have your customers strip you'd be finished by now," she laughed.
"Very funny. Not my fault. He dropped trou before I could stop him."
"I was impressed," she said. "Except for that..."
"So how long were you standing there?"
"Long enough," She broke into a loud cackle which was echoed by the women still grouped in the aisle close to my counter.
"Alright! That's enough. That young man had a very personal problem that had him quite worried. Let's get on with our lives here."
The small crowd dispersed. I went back to my typing. The phone had been ringing constantly but I'd been ignoring it with all the commotion.
My tech began getting the prescriptions lined up. The phone was still riinging. I looked at her. She ignored me as well as the phone. Finally I grabbed it.
"Hello, this is Dr. S-- I want you tofillaprescriptionforampicillinandtriaminicformypatient--give250mgqidforsevendaysandtriaminictidoneteaspoon. click."
"That's ampicillin... Hello. Hello. Doc? Could you repeat that please?"
"Hey, pharmacist. You back there!"
I was trying to figure which Dr. S-- had just called so I could call back and find out what he meant his patient to have. He was a little to quick for me.
"Hey! You! My doctor called in a prescription! I'm here to pick it up. I'm in a hurry."
Frustrated I hung up the phone. When that person comes in I'll have to find out who the doctor is and call him back, I was thinking as I turned my attention to my customer.
"May I help you?" I said as friendly as I could.
"Yeah. I got a prescription should be ready by now."
"Name please?" He told me. I checked the bin holding all finished prescriptions. Nothing. I checked all the prescriptions my tech had lined up. Nothing.
"I'm sorry sir. I don't find anything. Do you spell that with a C or a K?"
"Whadaya mean you don't have it? My doctor said he was going to call it in."
"Who was your doctor?"
"Dr. S---."
Oh Shi.., I thought. This is the guy getting the ampicillin.
"I'm sorry sir. I'll have to give your doctor a call. I don't seem to have that one yet."
"What?! He said he was calling it in. It should be ready. Check again."
Being civil I went through the motions. The phone was still ringing. Other customers were dropping off their prescriptions. A line was forming behind Mr. Belligerent. I could see the faces frowning up and toes tapping. It didn't matter that the customer at the front of the line was making a scene. They wanted their prescriptions and were wondering why they weren't ready. A day in the life, I thought to myself.
"Sorry sir. I don't see it."
"Well, call my doctor! He may be real busy. He may not have had time to call it in. You need to call him now!"
"Yessir," I said. "Please bear with me folks. I'm a little backed up."
"You know how long I've been waiting?" said one customer.
Toward the back of the line I heard, "What's taking so long? I handed my prescription to you ten minutes ago."
"I don't have time to wait this long. Gimme mine back. I'll take it to Soandso pharmacy. They don't take this long."
"As soon as I help this man, I'll be right with you."
"I don't care. Gimme my prescription."
I told my tech to give it to her. She took the filled bottle off the scrip and scratched through the number on it. "Here you go ma'am. And you have a good day." She handed it to her.
"It was a good day til I came here. Slowest service ever."
I was on the phone waiting on someone to answer as she walked out.
"Dr. S--'s office. May I help you?"
"Yes. Hello. This is Rick at Suchandsuch Pharmacy. I think Dr. S-- called in a prescription for mr. C---. I'm sorry but I need to clarify his order." The receptionist found the patient's profile and read back the prescription to me. I copied it down and repeated it to her.
"Thank you, miss." I hung up. "Alright, sir, I have your prescriptions. Please have a seat and I'll get to them as quickly as I can."
"You know what?"
"No sir, What?" I asked.
"I don't want 'em."
"Yessir that is your choice, but I'd like to remind you that your doctor ordered an antibiotic. It would be best if you took it as prescribed. You don't want to get sicker do you?"
"I'll take my chances. You guys just want to rip me off. The doc got his so now you're gonna get yours. Not this time, buddy."
I watched him leave. His next stop was the liquor store across the way. Funny, people will spend big bucks on booze but resent a pharmacy it's pay for something meant to keep them healthy. They willingly pay for booze and its detriment to the liver with a huge smile, I thought to myslelf.
"Ok. Who's next?" I said with a smile. Only four more hours and I'd be able to have a pack of nabs and a coke while typing. Lunch wasn't a thirty minute sit down in a pharmacy. Nope. One ate on the run and smiled at every disgruntled patient handing a prescription across the counter. Those twelve hour days were certainly a joy to some pharmacists but I found them to be tedious, trying and highly uanappreciated by those shelling out their hard earned dollars to the man behind the high counter.
There were those few who were a joy to serve. I do have some memories of those folks who allowed the time necessary for filling prescriptions. Some forget that the medicines handed out by a licensed professional can be life or death. A few minutes to double check can save a life. No one knows the pressures better than a harried pharmacist.
"Hey, you!" said the lady standing at the counter. Only eight more hours to go.