BADDA BING, BADDA BOOM!

Justice of the Peace? You wanna elope, Angie? Our parents haven’t even discussed the wedding!”  

“Exactly, Taylor, and it’s gonna stay that way!” said Angie in her best Marisa Tomei voice. “Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been to an Italian wedding? No? That’s what I thought. There are two things I know for a fact – #1: our parents couldn’t be more different and #2: left in the hands of my family, our wedding will be a circus, complete with unicycling-jugglers and a magician. Remember my cousin Gina’s engagement party?  Well, picture that ten times worse. Forget about an elegant ceremony in your parent’s country club like your sister had, with one maid of honor and a best man. There will be no dainty hors d’oeuvres and flutes of champagne served by an attentive waitstaff followed by dinner of Beef Wellington and fingerling potatoes. The delicate wedding cake with gold leaf flowers? Ain’t gonna happen. Our romantic wedding night in the country club honeymoon suite? Fugetaboutit! My parents are old school, Taylor, and only want a real Italian wedding. My father would rather swim through the shark-infested Straits of Messina than go against tradition. Now picture this: the ceremony will be held at St. Vito’s Church with my mother’s uncle, Monsignor DelFino, officiating. There will be at least ten bridesmaids and groomsmen, a flower girl and a ring bearer. The reception will be held at The Villa Barone catering hall where my brother-in-law Carlo, the newly-elected volunteer fire chief, had a sweet sixteen birthday party for his daughter.The cocktail hour will be a cash bar with antipasto served buffet style. The reception dinner will be Italian wedding soup, penne alla vodka, salad and a choice of chicken, prime rib or fish. The cake will be five, maybe six tiers. My cousin Vinnie will play the tarantella on his accordion, followed by the pièce de résistance – the Viennese Dessert Hour and flaming cherries jubilee. Our wedding night will be spent sitting around the kitchen table with you, me and my mother counting the money we got for wedding gifts while my father records everything in an accounting book like a cigar-chomping Iamblichus. OR ….. we go to City Hall, get hitched and spend two luscious weeks in sunny Aruba. Your call.” 

“Are you kidding me, Angie?  Say no more. City Hall awaits!” 

NAR © 2018

FIELD DAYS

Justice, Fergus and Eustace were little triplets, abandoned at an early age. They never knew their father who was the ‘love-em-and-leave-em’ type and their mother was a floozie who ran off with a smooth-talking rat. They were in dire straits for a while but now they lived on a farm and life was pretty good. 

Days were spent romping in the tall grass eating berries, seeds and an occasional bug. At night they slept in the barn loft – a discarded half-filled bag of mulch as their bed. And they always kept an eye out for cats, snakes, owls and other creatures of the night .. the typical life of a field mouse. 

Justice was the self-elected leader. Fergus was somewhat dim-witted, obviously not the brightest bulb. Eustace, the only female of the trio, was a free spirit who apparently took after their mother. Most nights Eustace could be found across the yard getting it on with the Hamster Boys. Eustace was not very discriminating but size definitely mattered. One night she took off with one of the hamsters; her brothers never saw her again. 

Sometimes the farmer’s teenage son and his friends would come into the barn, hanging around smoking some funny smelling stuff and laughing their fool heads off. One day Fergus noticed something the teens had left behind – shiny and glittering in the sun. He climbed down to investigate and discovered a long glass tube with a bowl attached to the end which contained remnants of something that looked like weeds. ‘Lunch!’ thought Fergus and began chowing down.

It wasn’t long before Justice heard Fergus’s excited giggles and went to see what nonsense the dimwit was up to. There he was, chasing his tail all around the top of a well, Bob Marley music playing in the background. Suddenly Fergus screamed ‘CANNONBALL’ and jumped into the deep well. Justice heard a tiny squeal followed by an almost imperceptible splash .. then silence. ‘Poor little twit’ Justice muttered to himself and slowly walked back to the barn.

Alone now, Justice packed a few items and bid farewell to the barn. Along the way he came across a young couple enjoying a picnic. Reaching into her basket, the woman produced a small piece of cheese and gingerly offered it to him. Tentative at first, Justice looked up into the woman’s twinkling blue eyes and was immediately besotted. He took the cheese in his tiny hands, placed it in his little hobo sack and ran off. 

Justice had been served.

Once he was far enough away he sat down and nibbled happily on the cheese, staring at the wispy clouds and reminiscing about his siblings, now gone. 

That day Justice had prevailed. 

NAR © 2018

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

It is raining again’ Rachel thought woefully as she looked out the window of the Manhattan apartment she shared with her boyfriend Jeff. ‘And the weather forecast is for rain all week  and into the holiday weekend!’ She and Jeff talked about getting away for a few days, maybe to Washington DC or to Boston but the weather all along the east coast looked bad. Labor Day weekend was just a few days away and it would be great to escape this incessant rain. 

It is raining like crazy!” exclaimed Jeff as he entered the apartment. “I’m soaked, hon. Toss me a towel, would ya? We’ve been talking about getting away for Labor Day. Why don’t you  check the computer for vacation spots while I get changed? I’ll be back in a sec.” 

“It is raining everywhere” whined Rachel as Jeff returned to the living room. “I thought about going to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or Disney World  but they’re having rain, too.” All evening they checked out various places, with no luck. They were about to give up when Jeff shouted “Whoa, babe! Look what I found on Expedia .. two round trip tickets to Cabo San Lucas for $296 per person and only $200 for the hotel! AND NO RAIN IN SIGHT!! Let’s go for it!”  Rachel threw her arms around Jeff’s neck shrieking “Cabo! Swimming! Mojitos! SUNSHINE! HELL YEAH!!”

“It is raining, babe. Can you hear it? For the first time in ten days I don’t give a damn because tomorrow we’ll be in sunny Méjico! I’m so stoked we made those reservations the other night.” Jeff yawned while Rachel snuggled up against him. “I thought I was  dreaming”, she replied sleepily. “Cabo, here we come!” and they drifted off to sleep. When they woke the next morning, the rain had stopped but it was cloudy and the sky was gray. The Uber picked them up at 8:00 for their 10:00 flight. The closer they got to the airport, the lighter the skies became and by the time they were seated in the plane, the sun was trying to break through the clouds. They arrived in Cabo just in time for cocktails and dinner, watching the glorious sunset from the hotel’s veranda. Very early the next morning Jeff was awakened by Rachel’s crying. “Honey, what’s the matter?” he asked.    

“IT IS RAINING!!” she sobbed. 

NAR © 2018

PAINT IT BLACK

It is raining. Little Joseph, only four years old, is riding in the back of a big black car, his mother Carla by his side. They are following a long flower-covered car. Mommy said daddy’s in that car but Joseph can’t see him. Their car stops; other cars arrive. Everyone is dressed in black. They’re all crying. Everyone follows some men carrying a long black box into a grassy field. ‘Is this a picnic?’ Joseph wonders. The men lower the box into a large hole in the ground and mommy tells Joseph to “say goodbye to daddy.” He is confused but follows her lead,  tossing a flower into the hole. They return to the car. Carla lights a cigarette, smiles and tells Joseph daddy won’t be coming back. Joseph is sad and doesn’t understand why daddy would leave without saying goodbye. Looking out the window he waves bye bye with his little hand. 

It is raining .. again. Joseph wants to play with mommy but she says “No .. I’m busy on the phone”. He goes exploring the cellar where there are lots of boxes .. great for climbing and building. Joseph spots a small box among the big ones and decides it’s perfect for the top of his fort. Just as he’s placing it on the tippy top, it slips from his hands, scattering torn  photos of daddy. There’s a newspaper clipping, too, but he can only read a few words – ‘BOAT’ .. ‘LOST’ .. and ‘ROMANO’ – his surname. Joseph doesn’t understand any of it but he instinctively knows mommy would be mad at him. He puts the box back where he found it and goes upstairs. 

It is raining but Joseph hears laughter outside. From the window he can see mommy and a man kissing under a tree. The man takes a suitcase from his car and he and mommy run to the house. They throw open the door, dripping wet, still laughing. Joseph thinks it’s all very strange for grown ups to act this way. Carla looks at Joseph and scolds, “Naughty boy! Don’t you know it’s rude to stare?” But Joseph just stands there, looking at them. “Well, silly goose”, purrs mommy, “say hello to my friend. He’s your daddy now.” Laughing and hugging, they ran up the stairs, leaving Joseph alone in the hallway. Slowly he walks to the window and starts to cry. Will it ever stop raining? 

NAR © 2018

THE YUS BUS

Other people often popped in and commented on her FaceBook posts, especially the rock music and Beatles groups. Reading their comments was an enjoyable way to pass the time. For some reason most of the responders were guys. Many posts were benign remarks, some were a bit more animated while others were downright hostile. Once in a while she would respond to the posts but always ignored the vitriolic ones. Why throw gas on a fire? 

One response to her Beatles post caught her attention. The guy who responded was intelligent, imaginative and his comments were thought-provoking. He didn’t kiss-up or act like a know-it-all. He mentioned music and groups which she was familiar with and that intrigued him .. pieces like Supper’s Ready and The Cinema Show by Genesis. To her surprise, she was delighted that he was a huge fan of this magic music. 

They began a casual correspondence on FaceBook, exchanging music videos and introducing each other to new artists. But the glue of the relationship was their love of the Beatles. The more they chatted the more they realized how much they both adored the Lads .. really got them and appreciated them above all others, especially John. How ironic, how enjoyable, how lovely. 

While “talking” one day, they discovered another common love existed .. writing .. and he encouraged her to pursue a long-abandoned passion for writing. They exchanged emails and a most unusual and unexpected relationship blossomed. He sent her rough drafts of his stories, asking for her opinion, critiques, etc., and she did the same. It didn’t take long before this became a frequent routine. It came as no surprise that they greatly admired each other’s work. What was unexpected was the multitude of similarities they shared .. not just in music and writing but in everything in their lives. There was only one word to describe their relationship – ineffable. 

It’s rare for two people who have never met to develop an inexplicable union .. one in which messages are exchanged at the exact same moment and identical words are used to describe feelings and sensations. They communicate daily ..  emailing and phoning, sharing a smooth cyber slow dance, afloat in an indescribable soulship of loving affection .. a bond that can’t be broken. There is no longer “him” nor “her” .. in fact there isn’t even an “us”. They are simply “YUS” .. riding THE YUS BUS. 

NAR © 2018

PILLOW TALK

Other is a word that rhymes with mother, which also happens to rhyme with smother. Which begs the question: Am I a dreadful person for wanting to smother my mother ?”

Mother wasn’t a bad person; there was no physical abuse .. just a major lack of tenderness which can leave greater, more permanent scars. She was a perfectionist who found it very difficult to show warmth or affection, even to her children. She was also “a classic crazy maker”. 

I don’t remember her saying “I love you”, tickling me till I squealed or reading bedtime stories. What I DO remember is proudly showing her a drawing I made in school with the inscription “Skyscrapers scrape the sky while butterflies flutter by”. My teacher called it “highly imaginative”; mother said it was foolishness – butterflies can’t fly that high.

As a teenager I was forbidden to shave my legs but did anyway. Not wanting my secret revealed, I wore jeans all the time .. even to the beach in the middle of summer! I also used a self-tanner which turned my skin orange! Mother watched as I scrubbed in water mixed with bleach .. a humiliating experience. It was at that time she discovered  my shaved legs, causing her to erupt like a gas explosion. I was probably grounded but it was worth it. 

Many days after arriving home from school I would find the contents of my dresser drawers dumped on my bed, simply because mother didn’t approve of how my clothes were folded. If I wanted to sleep that night, I’d have to put all my things away (or push them to the floor, which I often did!) I’d get hell the next day but it was a trip seeing her bulging veins and bugged-out eyes.

Years later when I had kids, mother would pop in unannounced and examine my house like the “White-Glove Lady” checking for dust. If my oven didn’t meet her standards of cleanliness, she would clean it! Well, pardon my mess; I have two little ones who are more important to me than a spotless houseStill, when she did that it drove me crazy. Never once did she play with my kids.

Lately I’ve been having a recurring dream about smothering mother with a pillow. When I wake up, I’m smiling. I guess my earlier question bears repeating: Does that make me a dreadful person?” 

NAR © 2018

THE GRAND CRAYONYON

Other brands of crayons can be found in every toy or arts and crafts store around the world – various sized boxes containing a multitude of colors – but none can compare to the “King of Crayons” – CRAYOLA! 

Originally all that was available was a thin mustard-colored paper packet with drab green lettering which contained eight crayons – one each of black, blue, brown, green, red, violet, orange and yellow .. fine, reliable, steadfast colors indeed .. the proud forefathers of what was to come. 

As time went on, more colors were created and updated boxes were designed .. until finally in 1958 the crown jewel of crayons made its debut. Nothing compared to the new bright yellow and green box with red letters emblazoned across the front shouting out “64 DIFFERENT BRILLIANT COLORS WITH BUILT-IN SHARPENER!” This was indeed The Grand Crayonon”! 

One peek inside the magic box revealed to curious and imaginative kids everywhere a rainbow battalion of wax soldiers standing at attention in their cardboard armories ..  a plethora of pigmentation, a confluence of chromaticity, a legion of luminosity .. colors galore! 

No longer were kids confined to a measly eight colors. Now, instead of one red there were four, five hues of orange, eight varieties of yellow, six choices of green, a profusion of eleven blues, five purple shades, an assortment of eight pinks, an incredible selection of ten browns, two grays and one each of silver, gold, copper, black and white. One of the blues was called cerulean, which everyone thought sounded more like a gas than a color! 

The artistic possibilities were endless: the sky was no longer just blue but actually sky blue and midnight blue. Trees weren’t plain old green – they were forest and pine green. Flowers were carnation pink, brilliant rose and periwinkle. Lemons and olives were, believe it or not, lemon yellow and olive green!  

And just when you think the pinnacle has been reached, along comes the totally unexpected .. washable crayons, erasable ones, scented, fluorescent and even glitter crayons. Now oranges, grapes and cherries smell like fruit, tulips and violets smell like flowers and reflecting stars sparkle and shimmer in the Pacific Blue. 

It’s no wonder why something as ineffably magical as playful, colorful crayons should have their own theme park .. The Crayola Experience .. a fabulous place where kids and adults can participate in “The Power of Creativity”.  

Thank you, Crayola, for coloring our world!

NAR © 2018