HORSE OF ANOTHER COLOR

“Eavesdropper, eh? Terrific odds. He’s a mudder and the track is muddy today. And look at his lineage! Yep, Millie, I predict that’s the winner of Race 9” said Harry Goldman to his wife. She brushed him off with a wave of her hand. “Whatever, Harry Houdini. Not one of your famous magical predictions has paid off yet.”

“All right, Millie. I admit you got lucky today. What’s your secret .. communicating with a horse whisperer?” 

“Oh, zip it, Harry! If it wasn’t for me, we’d be in the poor house. You haven’t won all day! Now be quiet and let me concentrate on my choice for this race.” 

Harry heaved his portly body out of his seat. “Pardon moi, madame. I’m gonna place my bet on Eavesdropper. Then we’ll see who’s got horse sense!”

“You mean horse’s ass, don’t ya?” Millie cackled. “Go on. I’ll be along in a minute .. I’m thinking here.” Snapping her chewing gum, Millie studied the racing form, then traipsed to the betting windows. 

Bets placed, Harry and Millie settled in for the race. “I got a good feeling about this one, Millie!” Harry said excitedly. 

The starting gun shot out and the announcer shouted “And they’re off!” 

Eavesdropper took the lead immediately and held on. Anxious, Harry stood to watch. Suddenly the horse in fourth place started picking up steam. Faster and faster, he flew past the other horses and at the last second crossed the finish line just before Eavesdropper. 

The announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “What a shocker! The winner by a nose .. Muddy Waters!”  

Harry slumped into his seat. “I don’t believe it! Eavesdropper was a shoe-in.”

Millie, however, was flying high.  “I won again! Good old Muddy Waters. I knew it!” 

Millie, I’m begging you! “How’d you do it?” 

“Harry, remember how you said Eavesdropper was a mudder? When I saw the name ‘Muddy Waters’, I knew that was an omen.” 

But how did you pick ALL the other winners?”

“It’s the colors! If I like what the jockey’s wearing, I’ll pick that horse.” 

“That’s your strategy? COLORS?!? Ok .. who you picking for the last race?” 

Millie looked around surreptitiously and pointed to a name on the card. 

HIM?? Rabelais? His color is ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’ .. like a turd!” 

“Not so loud, Harry! He’s from France and you know how ‘I fell’ for those Frenchies!” 

“Aren’t you the clever one?” Harry groaned at Millie’s little joke. “I give up, Millie. Go with your cockamamie ideas and bet it all on Rabelais!” 

Millie was already at the window before Harry was even finished talking.

NAR © 2018

JUST AN ORDINARY SUNDAY

Eavesdropper! Go away, Cathy, and stop being so nosy!” 

“I’m not an eavesdropper, Susan! I was just walking down the hall. Besides, you’re not my boss!” 

“Don’t make me come up there, girls! What’s going on?” shouted Cathy and Susan’s mother Evelyn. 

The girls stomped down the stairs, both yelling at the same time. 

“QUIET!” They took one look at their mother’s face and immediately stopped talking. “That’s better! Now, one at a time tell me what happened. Cathy, you first.” 

“Why does she get to go first?” whined Susan.

Because I said so” sneered Evelyn. “I’m tired of you girls arguing all the time. Start talking Cathy.” 

“I was on the phone talking to Marcy about Rabelais and I saw Susan listening at my door .. as usual.” 

“About him .. your French boyfriend” teased Susan, making goo-goo eyes and kissing noises. 

“Excuse me?” Evelyn asked sarcastically. “What’s all this about a French boyfriend?” 

“It’s true”, replied Susan. “I heard her talking about him .. how he’s smart and funny, he’s a writer and a doctor. He must be ancient .. like 30 or something!” 

“Nice trap you set for yourself, Susan”, commented Evelyn. “For someone who claims she’s not an eavesdropper, you seem to know an awful lot about your sister’s private conversations.” 

Susan’s face turned bright red in embarrassment and anger and tears welled in her eyes.

“But, mom…..” Susan stammered.

“But nothing, Susan. Be quiet! Cathy, you start explaining just what’s going on and it better be good!” Evelyn demanded. 

Mom, there’s no boyfriend. And Susan, you’re such a dummy!” snapped Cathy. “Rabelais lived during the French Renaissance! Do you even know how long ago that was? Marcy and I were discussing our book reports about him. Mom, she’s just jealous because you gave me a Princess Phone for Christmas and not her. I am 15, after all.” 

“It’s not fair!” cried Susan. “I’m 14 and all I got was a stupid record player!”

“The very same record player you use every day listening to your beloved Beatles?” interjected their dad peeking over his newspaper. “And if I’m not mistaken, the famous foursome are appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show tonight. Now .. if you think there’s even the slightest chance you’re going to watch that show then you better stop arguing, apologize and help your mother set the table for dinner.”

“We’re sorry!” the girls sang in unison and ran happily together into the dining room. 

How did you manage that minor miracle?” Evelyn asked her husband.

“Elementary, my dear. It’s called communicating.”

Is that so? Sounds more like ‘bribery’ to me!”

NAR © 2018

THE IMMIGRANTS

Francesco Amato glanced down from his perch 60 stories above the streets of New York City. As he ate lunch, he talked casually to his friend, Giuseppe, who sat across from him about four feet away. Francesco lit a Camel cigarette, tossed the box of matches to Giuseppe and both men lounged on their beds of steel. Keeping his eyes open to maintain his balance on the 18 inch wide metal plank, Francesco took a long drag on his cigarette. Then the whistle blew; lunchtime was over. 

Giuseppe pitched the matches back to Francesco. They rose to their feet, now old pros at this daily death-defying balancing act. Just then a gust of wind came out of nowhere, scooped up the wrappings from lunch and swirled them about before they slowly drifted out of sight. Both men held on to a nearby vertical beam until the wind stilled.

Looking below at the large wind flag, the men saw that it was still white .. safe conditions. Yellow meant proceed with caution while red indicated dangerous work environments. The crew worked throughout the year, but if a red flag was up, no one climbed the beams. 

There were no harnesses to prevent a deadly fall, no safety nets should someone slip ..  nothing to protect them, save them. All they had to help them scale the beams were ropes dangling from above, good balance and guts. 

Calmness restored, the men strapped on their tool belts containing welder’s gloves, hammers and tongs. A rudimentary pulley system was used to hoist the beams and buckets filled with iron rivets in white hot coals. Using their tongs, the men removed rivets from the coals, inserted them into pre-drilled holes in the beams and hammered them into place. After every hole was filled, the men climbed up to the next level and repeated the process. 

When the end-of-work whistle blew, Giuseppe stretched for the rope to begin the long, slow descent to solid ground. Suddenly he lost his footing and slid off the beam. Francesco yelled out in horror “No, Giuseppe, no!!” as he tried in vain to grab his friend’s arm. The crew watched in stunned disbelief as Giuseppe tumbled down, his screams echoing throughout the beams. 

Francesco sat slumped over, unable to move, silently crying as a single mournful thought invaded his mind: he didn’t even know Giuseppe’s last name. 

NAR © 2018

SWEET LITTLE MAGGIE

“Welcome, friends. You’re listening to Dr. Grey, ‘The Night Owl’. Let’s talk about what’s keeping you up at night. Caller, are you there?” 

Yes, I’m here and I feel a little foolish calling you about my problem. It happened so long ago.” 

“Let me assure you, caller, there’s no reason to feel foolish. Obviously whatever happened is still haunting you. Maybe it’s time to let it go. Whenever you feel comfortable, I’m here to listen.” 

“Ok .. here goes nothing. You see, I was born deformed. Growing up in a small Midwest town, I was teased mercilessly, especially by the other boys.” 

“I can see how painful that must have been for you. Please continue.” 

“High school was a living hell. There was a group of guys who beat me up every day. The only friend I had was a sweet girl who wasn’t disgusted by my deformity. It was real easy to fall in love with her. But she had a boyfriend .. the guy who treated me the worst. How I hated him! I started thinking of ways I could hurt him like he was hurting me.” 

“Caller, I can only imagine your pain. May I ask .. have you called in before? There’s something familiar about your plight. Please, go on.” 

“No, I’ve never called before, Chief.” 

“What did you just call me?” 

“Oh, did that nickname ring a bell, Chief? Yeah, big man on campus back in Madison, Indiana. It was you, Chief, who made my life a living hell, you who tormented me every chance you had and eventually turned my only friend against me .. my sweet Maggie. Do you have any idea how much I hate you? “ 

“Oh my God! Fred Waldron! Fred, I’m unbelievably sorry for all the pain I caused you. I was an idiot with a big mouth. But now we have a chance to….” 

“To what? Talk it out? Forgive and forget? I don’t think so. Too late, Chief. See, I’m dying. That’s right. My deformed body is riddled with cancer. I had one last thing to do before I die and believe me, it wasn’t to hear you apologize. It was to hurt you in the worst possible way.” 

“Fred, what do you mean?” 

“You’ll see. When we hang up I’m gonna put a bullet in my brain. And you? You should go home and check on your sweet little Maggie.” 

CLICK.

NAR © 2018

BALLS TO THE WALL

While reading the real estate section, my wife Jen called out to me. “Hey, Eric, check this out. You know that community we love? One of the houses is available, has everything we want plus a big yard and a pool. And get this .. their asking only $275,000! That’s well within our budget!”  

“Seriously?  Those houses usually go for twice as much! Wonder why it’s so low.”  

“The agent’s number is right here” replied Jen. “Let’s call.”  

After talking to the agent, we agreed to meet at noon. When we arrived she explained that the owners had moved out of the country and were anxious for a quick sale. The community was lovely and families were outside enjoying the great weather. The house was even more beautiful than we imagined .. not a thing wrong. We asked the agent to make arrangements for an inspector to check everything out and a few days later he reported the house to be in excellent condition, removing all doubts. 

“Well, babe”, I said, giving  Jen a hug, “looks like we just found our dream house!”  

Two weeks later we moved in and everyone was very friendly. In fact, the guy next door came over and invited us to a community welcoming barbecue that weekend. We knew we were gonna love this place.

The barbecue was fun and later on at home we talked about how nice our neighbors were. In particular, Jen was surprised by how helpful the men were, “Except for that one incident when Barb got annoyed with Gil because his mashed potatoes were lumpy!” she laughed.

As time passed, we couldn’t help noticing that all the men were house-husbands while all the women went to work. How odd! One night Gil called to invite me to the Friday night poker game at his house and Jen to a ladies night at Susan’s. 

The game was going well when Gil suddenly asked “So, Eric, when are you gonna get your balls snipped?”

 Nearly choking, I sputtered WHAT??”  

“Sure! We’re all snipped. Dr. Susan does it .. smooth and rapid. Our wives convinced us life would be much calmer that way .. and it is. Here’s her number.”  

Mumbling excuses, I left the game and darted home .. colliding into Jen running from the other direction. 

“Do you know what they do here?!?” she asked, horrified. 

I nodded frantically. “And the only things getting cut are our losses! We’re outta here!” 

NAR © 2018

http://fivedotoh.com/2022/09/02/fandangos-flashback-friday-september-2nd/

THE EIGHTH OF DECEMBER

While cradling my year old son in his bed after a bad dream, I sang softly to him my favorite Beatles song, In My Life. He stared up at me, his blue eyes moist with tears. Slowly his breathing became calm and his eyelids began to flutter. At last he was asleep and I kissed his eyes, removing the last traces of salty droplets as I pulled up his covers.

Closing the door gently behind me, I went back downstairs where my husband Bill was watching Monday Night Football. One look at Bill as he sat on the sofa, his head in his hands, told me his team was playing badly. I kidded him about being so serious about a game but he didn’t react. I softly called his name and when he looked up at me there were tears running down his face.

As I sat next to him he turned to me, took my hands and told me that John Lennon was dead, shot on the doorsteps of his home, The Dakota. I stared at him in shock. Why would he say such a horrible thing? Who would ever want to hurt John?

He turned the tv volume back on; the game had been interrupted by the report of an incident involving John. I fell to the floor sobbing as the reporter droned on about ‘rapid gun shots’ .. ‘police/John/hospital’ .. ‘dead on arrival’.

I cried uncontrollably and kept repeating no! no! no! as my husband held me in his arms and I wailed in unimaginable anguish and disbelief. We sat on the floor for a long time, clinging to each other, unable to stop my tears or unhear the words coming from the tv.

At one point my three year old son crept down the stairs, frightened and wondering what was wrong with mommy. My husband quickly scooped him up and returned him to his room, whispering that mommy was very sad about something she saw on tv and she would be ok tomorrow.

But I was not ok the next day. I was not ok the next week. I was never truly ok after that night. No living, loving soul in the world was ever ok again.

These days, almost 38 years later, as I cradle my son’s babies in my arms and rock them to sleep, I sing In My Life and I remember John. 

NAR © 2018