This is a repost of a story from 2017, the first one I wrote for The Elephant’s Trunk. 🐘
“Impressive collection you have here” said Jackson to the owner of the record store.
“Feel free to look around” came a voice from somewhere behind a stack of boxes.
Jackson browsed the tiny cubby of a store, appropriately named “The Inner Sleeve”, looking for nothing in particular.
“Psst. Down here!” A battered box stashed in the corner called out. Jackson crouched down to wipe the dust off a yellowed label.
Feeling a jolt shoot straight to his heart, fingers racing through musty LPs, and suddenly there it was- “Les Annees Bechet”, #1: “Petite Fleur”.
“I’ll be damned”, whispered Jackson. No longer was he in “The Inner Sleeve”. It was Paris, 1982 in that enchanting café … what was the name?
“Café de la Paix. Yes, that was it!” he recalled. And then, in a barely perceptible hush, “Lisette”.
Slumping back against the wall, Jackson clasped the precious vinyl against his chest, caressed it lovingly with the same fingers that raced through the box just seconds before. The same fingers that released Lisette’s raven hair from its ‘pince à cheveax’ and showered it across her porcelain shoulders. The same fingers that traced her face as gently as butterfly wings – ‘ailes de papillons’ – from her widows peak to her crystal blue eyes, her nose, her blushed lips. “Just this one time” thought Jackson. Just once before returning to his insanely mundane existence in Stamford, Connecticut.
Oh, for just one more taste of Lisette.
Slowly Jackson stood, a sadness like none other enveloping him. He suddenly realized he had been crying and wiped at his eyes self-consciously. He wound his way through the maze of boxes overflowing with records that were meaningless to him. He had found what he didn’t know he was looking for.
Here’s another fun one. I changed it up a bit to include one of my friends; she mentioned me in a poem a while ago so it’s time. Enjoy this one, my people! 🐘
“Where are we going, Charlie? Huh, huh?? Where are we going?”
“I thought we’d go to the dog park. Would you like that, Earl?”
“The dog park? THE DOG PARK?? OMG! I’m so excited I think I’m gonna pee!”
“You better not! Now settle down and stop licking my face. I’m trying to drive. And quit running around the car or we’re going home.”
“I’ll be good, I promise. You brought the frisbee, Charlie? Oh, man, this is gonna be so great! I can fetch sticks and roll in the leaves and if I’m really lucky you-know-who will be there.”
“Yes, Earl. That cute poodle you’ve been eyeing. What’s her name – Misky?”
“Yup, yup, that’s it Charlie – Misky! ** SIGH ** Hold on, Charlie, this isn’t the way to the dog park. You gotta turn around. We’re going the wrong way! Charlie, turn around!”
“It’s ok, Earl. We have to make one stop first. Why don’t you just lie down and rest. We’ll be there soon.”
“Ok, Charlie. I’ll just lie here on the back seat and save my energy for … hey, why is my crate in the car, Charlie? We never take my crate to the park. Why did you bring my crate?? Why? What’s going on?”
“Earl, sit! Good boy. Look, here’s your chew toy.”
** CHOMP CHOMP **
“Ok, Earl, we’re here. Let’s go buddy.”
“Hey, I recognize this place. It’s the veterinarian’s office! Why are we at the vet, Charlie? I don’t need shots and my nails don’t need trimming. I don’t wanna be here. I wanna go to the park! Charlie, why are you taking my crate out of the car? Why do we need the crate? Charlie, I got a bad feeling about this.”
“Come here, boy. Sit next to me and listen, ok? You’re my best bud and I’ve never lied to you but I didn’t tell you the truth today. I’m sorry. We were never going to the park. I only said that because I didn’t want to upset you. We’re at the vet because it’s time.”
“Time? Time for what, Charlie? Am I sick, Charlie? Am I DYING? That’s it, isn’t it? I’m dying!! CHAAAAARLIE!! I don’t wanna die!”
“Calm down, buddy. You’re not sick and you’re certainly not dying. You’re here today to get snipped.”
“Yeah – neutered.”
“NEUTERED?!? ** HOWL ** I’d rather be dead! Why, Charlie, why?? What about Misky? That means I’ll never … you know.”
“Misky? Of course you’ll be able to … you know. You’ll just be shooting blanks.”
“C’mon, Charlie. Can’t we please just go home? I don’t wanna do this. Being a dog without balls is a bitch, metaphorically speaking, of course.”
“It’ll be over before you know it, Earl. Get in your crate now, boy. We’ll go to the dog park in a couple of days and Misky will be there waiting for you.”
“A COUPLE OF DAYS?!? ** WHINE ** This sucks, Charlie! Betrayed by my best friend.”
Today is my birthday so I decided to give myself a gift by posting one of my favorite stories from 2018, my personal little twist on an old beloved nursery rhyme. It always makes me chuckle. I hope it does the same for you.
May 4, 2000
TO: Mr. Al Bumen, Homeowners Association
FROM: Humpty Dumpty
Dear Mr. Bumen
It is with eggstream distress that I find myself writing to you once again.
Apparently the situation regarding the eggceedingly narrow wall upon which I often enjoy sitting has gone unaddressed as I have once again eggsperienced a great fall resulting in eggcruciating injuries.
Usually my mishaps leave me slightly scrambled with a few minor cracks. However, in this most recent fall, all the kings horses and all the kings men were unable to put me back together again.
As a result, I now find myself an impatient patient in Eggcelsior Hospital, completely covered in horrendous cracks .. some so deep that my yolk is eggscaping like yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye. Do you not understand the severity of this situation? I am the Egg Man, goo goo g’joob!
The doctors have informed me that once I am healed I am to be hard boiled in an effort to protect my eggsterior shell should such a great fall happen again. This is no yolking matter as I have heard that hard-boiling is quite painful and there are no guarantees that the procedure will be successful.
In the meantime, I am being coddled in my hospital bed, sharing a room with a severely burned slab of bacon whose incessant sizzling keeps me awake all night.
Getting out of bed requires a gentle over easy roll maneuver with the assistance of the eggspert nurses on staff, but it is very embarrassing as the hospital gowns leave one quite eggsposed.
I’m trying to keep my sunny side up but unless the wall is widened, I’m afraid I have no recourse but to bring this situation to the attention of my attorneys Benedict, Deviled, Florentine and Poached. I assure you I will be doing a slow soft boil until I hear from you regarding this eggstremely urgent matter.
May 6, 2000
TO: Mr. Dumpty
FROM: Mr. Al Bumen, Homeowners Association
Dear Mr. Dumpty:
As you are aware, we recently had an issue with a maid who was in the garden hanging clothes when along came a blackbird and snipped off her nose. Wall sitting and clothes hanging are strictly forbidden, according to the Homeowners Policy. While we sympathize with your plight, the wall will remain unchanged. We suggest you try sitting on a cornflake instead.
Head resting gently on his shoulder, her ever-so-slightly parted lips barely grazing his neck, he inhaled the intoxicating aroma of gardenias in her hair and traced her perfect ear with his mouth. Her arms caressed his upper back while his hands slid down hers and he pulled her closer. They swayed across the dance floor to the smooth rhythm of John Lennon’s “#9 Dream” – their first dance together as husband and wife.
Twenty seven years ago their mothers were best friends – army wives and neighbors, sharing morning coffee, exchanging recipes and sometimes a handkerchief to wipe away tears. Their babies napped in the same playpen…..he a dark-haired, brown-eyed, sweet-faced charmer and she a fair-skinned blonde little goddess with eyes as green as dewy grass.
When they were four she surprised him with a worm and he plucked a dandelion for her that made her giggle. As time went on and days turned into years, they remained inseparable – climbing trees to see if they could touch the clouds, catching lightning bugs and making a wish before setting them free, sitting in her room sharing their dreams, listening to their parents Beatles CDs while stretched out in his dad’s station wagon, kissing for the first time and a second and a hundredth.
They “went steady” in high school and became lovers in college. They found an apartment above a shuttered café in Brooklyn. They talked about taking a chance on the old place and bringing it back to life. They worked together and finally celebrated the grand opening of “The Glass Onion Café”.
It poured like cats and dogs on their wedding day – the old adage of a long and happy marriage. Could this be reality, their happily-ever-after? Dreams shared in a teenage girl’s bedroom come true?
Something old: her grandmother’s pearl necklace. Something new: the minuscule miracle of life growing inside her. Something borrowed: her mother’s “army wife handkerchief”. Something blue: her sapphire engagement ring.
The Master of Ceremonies made the introduction of the new Mr. & Mrs. to the guests and invited everyone to join them on the dance floor. The photographer snapped shot after shot of the stunning couple – she in her exquisite gown of Scottish lace and he in a fitted, perfectly tailored tuxedo.
It was the magical night everyone intrinsically knew was meant to be; their #9 dream come true.
Today is George Harrison’s birthday. In his honor, I am reposting a story from 2021.
Interviewer: How did you get into music?
George: Ever since I was a small boy all I wanted was to be a musician – or a gardener (laugh). I remember the first time I heard Elvis on the radio. I didn’t know who he was at the time. This incredible voice was coming from someone’s window as I rode by on my bike and I had to find out who he was. Making music wasn’t about being famous; that was just a bonus. It was a way for me to express my soul. All I wanted was to make music and be in a band like John and Paul.
Interviewer: How are you and Paul getting on?
George: Paul’s a genius and he’ll be the first to say so! Listen, we love each other like brothers and always will but we have our fall outs, just like all families. We can really get on each others nerves but you just don’t stop loving somebody for that. The thing about Paul is his relentless need for mental stimulation and public adulation. He craves attention, being the center of the universe. He thinks he’s right all the time and won’t give up on something until he gets his way. That’s his personality, not mine. I’m an easy going guy and he treated me like a mariachi band guitar player at times. You think that didn’t hurt? He can be damn manipulative but from the day we met I felt he was truly great. It’s been my privilege all these years to make music with him.
Interviewer: Care to comment on the “Paul is dead” story?
George: Not really.
Interviewer: You’ve got to admit there’s some compelling evidence out there.
George: Conspiracy theories abound! Anything is believable if presented the right way. We all decided not to make a big deal out of the story. If we came out fiercely denying it, well that would have just drawn more attention to it. We felt it best to leave it alone and stay out of it. You can make up your own mind, man. I’m not going there.
Interviewer: Fair enough. How was your relationship with John?
George: John was brilliant, incredibly creative and spontaneous. People saw him cutting up and joking around but he was surprisingly insecure and withdrawn. John’s brain never stopped and he had a wickedly funny sense of humor. He could be a saint or a bastard but he was always honest and I loved him. And no matter what anyone felt – myself included – John was one with Yoko. They had an amazing bond; they loved each other deeply and just wanted to be in each other’s company all the time. They couldn’t help it and they didn’t care how people felt about it. That’s why Yoko was always a presence and I applaud John for that. After the group split our paths rarely crossed. Then that psycho shot him. This man of peace … killed so violently … the very thing he vehemently opposed. I like to think I’m a forgiving man but that is the one thing I will never forgive. (George stares off into the distance; we’re quiet for a moment)
Interviewer: What about Ringo?
George: Ha! Ringo! I smile just saying that name. He’s a really great drummer but he took a lot of shit from John and Paul, as did I. Ritchie was an easy target but he was thrilled just being in the band. He’s one of the happiest people I know. What you see is what you get with him. No airs about him at all. We were really good mates until I mucked it all up and had an affair with Maureen. That was a grave error in judgement on my part. Ritchie forgave me because that’s how he is but we lost that tight closeness we had. Listen, let’s be honest – we all had our share of infidelities. That doesn’t excuse what I did. Ritchie is all about peace and love. He’ll do anything for his friends. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Ritchie.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about Eric Clapton.
George: (Big sigh) Eric. Well, what can I say? He’s my brother, you know. We have a connection – as close as the fine strings on a guitar.
Interviewer: What about his affair with your wife?
George: Well, it wasn’t exactly a stellar period for any of us. Eric was obsessed with Pattie for a long time. She was such a free spirit, luscious, impossible to resist! Pattie loved us both passionately but I had my flings and she chose to be with Eric. I don’t blame her. I was disappointed with them, sure, but how could I judge them when my behavior was just as bad? We all just moved on.
Interviewer: Which of your songs do you consider the best?
George: You probably think I’m going to say “Something”, right? Well, you’re correct because I always knew I was capable of writing a song like that but neither John nor Paul believed I could do it. Even George Martin had his doubts. They certainly didn’t give me much of a chance. Do you know Frank Sinatra said it was the greatest love song in the last 50 years? Well, I guess I showed them, didn’t I? (laughing loudly,coughing). But right up there with “Something” is “My Sweet Lord”, my first solo number one release. Both those songs are on the album for Bangladesh which I honestly believe is my best work. It wasn’t about just writing songs; I had something important to say, a message to get across to people. It was a very fulfilling time in my life.
Interviewer: After the split, did you think The Beatles would ever reunite?
George: No. We four guys – we came together to make music. We created something special and ended up making history. In a short period we lived a lot of lifetimes and as a group we were burned out, ready to have a go as solo artists. I had all the material things one person could ever want. What I needed was spiritual fulfillment, to be the best person I could be. I’m dying, you know. Cancer. My days are numbered. Those years with the Lads – they were brilliant. I’ll never forget a moment.
Dedicated to George Harrison on the anniversary of his death, November 29, 2001.
“Melanie! Breakfast is ready. Better hurry or you’ll be late for school!” Evelyn Coe yelled up to her daughter from the bottom of the stairs.
“Frank, I don’t know what’s gotten into Melanie lately” Evelyn complained to her husband. “I can’t keep up with her mood swings.”
“Remember when she was dating that loser Jeffrey and we insisted she end the relationship?” Frank asked. “I wonder where he is and what he’s up to. You don’t think she’s still seeing him, do you?”
“Last I heard he was selling used cars. Melanie said something about him working at that lot on Matthew Street near the Cavern Club, I think. I hope she didn’t go behind our backs and continue seeing him. She wouldn’t do that to us, Frank, would she?”
“Stubborn girl!” bellowed Frank. “Don’t forget how she fought us about going to public school with the ‘cool kids’ instead of attending Rigby Academy! She has never wanted for a single thing her entire life. She takes everything for granted. She’ll be going to college in a couple of months. Hopefully she’ll get her head on straight.”
“You’re right, Frank” Evelyn agreed. “But now she’s talking about taking a break before college to ‘find herself’. I can easily find her; she’s upstairs sleeping!”
Evelyn marched to the stairs and called out: “Melanie! You better be down here in two minutes or I’m coming up!”
“There’s no way in hell Melanie is taking time off to go gallivanting around God knows where!” Frank threatened. “Tonight we’re going to have a serious conversation. She’s had a very privileged life and if she thinks she’sgoing to take advantage of our generosity, she better think again!”
“I’m going upstairs and dragging her out of bed.” Evelyn thumped up the stairs to Melanie’s room but moments later came running into the kitchen clutching her handkerchief, tears in her eyes.
“Frank! Melanie wasn’t in her room. I found this letter. She’s gone! Our baby’s gone!” Evelyn wailed.
“What do you mean ‘gone’? Let me see that” and Frank snatched the piece of paper from Evelyn’s hands. He read out loud:
“Mother and Father. I’ve run away with Jeffrey. I want my freedom. I’ve lived under your thumbs long enough and for the first time in my life I’m doing what makes me happy, not what you want me to do. Please don’t come after me or try to find me. Goodbye, Melanie“
Running out of the house, Frank yelled for Evelyn to call the police. When he returned he breathlessly informed his wife that Melanie’s car was gone.
The police arrived soon after; Detective McKenzie asked the usual questions: Did the Coes think Melanie was forced to write the note? Did she leave against her will? Were any of her things missing?
Tearfully Evelyn answered the detective’s questions. “Her suitcase and some of her clothes are gone. She wasn’t forced to leave. She left us for Jeffrey. She did this to hurt us!”
“I’m sorry, folks, but unfortunately we have to wait 24 hours before filing a missing persons report. My hands are tied” Detective McKenzie replied sympathetically.
“God knows where they are by now!” Frank exclaimed.
“I can’t believe she would leave us!” Evelyn lamented. “She has everything here; a nice home, lots of clothes and her own car. Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly? How could she do this to me?”
“We never thought for ourselves. We worked hard all our lives to get by. What did we do that was wrong?” Frank cried in desperation and frustration.
Hundreds of miles away Melanie and Jeffrey were speeding down the highway heading for a new life.
“Any regrets leaving home like that?” Jeffrey asked.
“None!” Melanie replied without hesitation. “I’m finally having fun and that’s the one thing money can’t buy!”
She snuggled close to him and they sped away without looking back.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In 1966 Paul McCartney read a newspaper story in the Daily Mirror about a girl named Melanie Coe which inspired him to write the song “She’s Leaving Home”. Although most of the content in the song was embellished, McCartney said that a great deal of the story about Coe, who was 17-years-old at the time, was accurate. She left with her boyfriend in the afternoon while her parents were at work. In my story, the names of Melanie’s parents, Frank and Evelyn Coe, as well as her boyfriend Jeffrey, are fictitious. Coe was found ten days later having previously mentioned where her boyfriend worked; she was pregnant and her mother took her for an abortion. An update on Coe appeared in The Guardian in December 2008 and she was interviewed about the song on the BBC program The One Show on November 24, 2010. In May 2017 Rolling Stone magazine carried an interview with Coe to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Normally I don’t take the subway to work but I heard there was a bad auto accident backing up traffic for miles on the highway so driving wasn’t an option. My train was already at the station when I arrived. Every seat was taken except for one in the corner. I quickly sat down as the train began filling up with passengers.
Glancing around I caught a glimpse of a man seated about fifteen feet from me reading a newspaper. He looked over in my direction and gave me a big grin, his light blue eyes twinkling. He bore an uncanny resemblance to my late father, Gino, and I was unable to resist smiling back at him. He was well-groomed, wearing a fedora with a white feather neatly tucked into the hatband. He had a thin mustache and I imagined he was a barber like my dad. He went back to reading his newspaper and when he turned the page I was surprised to see it was La Stampa, the Italian newspaper my father used to read.
Suddenly the subway stopped and the lights went out for a few minutes. When they came back on I looked over at the man but he wasn’t there. I looked all around but didn’t see him. We were stuck in a dark tunnel – where could he have gone?
The train started up again and at our next stop many people entered, including two women with five young children; they looked like gypsies. One woman was younger, obviously the mother of the children, and the older woman was their grandmother. The mother protectively held a toddler while the other children clung to her skirt and the grandmother clutched the handle of a baby carriage. The women whispered rapidly in a foreign language as their wide eyes frantically searched the train. They were clearly frightened as though they were running away from someone or something.
The ride was choppy and the children were getting restless; the women tried desperately to quiet them. At the next stop people brusquely shoved their way off and on. Suddenly a swarthy-looking man pushed the old gypsy woman, snatched the baby carriage and dashed out the train just as the doors closed. The hysterical mother screamed what sounded like “My baby! My baby!” but no one paid her any attention. I stood up to see if I could help but the train jerked to a start. I was thrown back into my seat, hitting my head.
The harsh train whistle jolted me and I was amazed to discover I was in my bed; the whistle was my alarm clock. It was only a dream! Sleepily, I shuffled to the door to collect my newspaper, then turned on the tv. Opening the newspaper, my eyes widened in disbelief as I saw the banner – La Stampa – the same paper my father used to read. The date was November 17, 1992, the day my father died.
A voice from the tv roused me from my trance: “A happy ending yesterday for a Romanian woman whose baby was snatched from a crowded subway by her estranged husband. Witnesses directed police to an alley next to “Gino’s Barbershop” where the husband was found hiding behind a dumpster. The baby was reunited with its relieved and very grateful mother.”
There on the screen was the same gypsy family I saw on the train! In the background stood my father’s old barbershop.
Stunned, I dropped the newspaper and slumped onto my bed. So it wasn’t a dream after all! From the corner of my eye I noticed something sticking out of the newspaper. With trembling hands I gently pulled out a white feather.
Going through some old posts and I came across this one. I don’t usually write poems but I always thought this was pretty good; hope you think so, too.
Rumors the Clown is coming to town. He’ll take your frown, turn it upside down. Saturday night at Monument Park West. Come see the joker who’s the best of the best. Yes, Rumors the Clown is coming to visit So run children, run, or you surely will miss it
The circus wagon chugged through the streets Extolling Rumors the Clown’s incredible feats. The star of tv, the stage and the screen Would roll into town, a sight to be seen, This violet-haired, bumbling, zoot-suited jester, The idol of Harold and Mary and Lester
The kids scampered home to ask mom and ask dad “Can we go? Can we see him? We haven’t been bad. It’s true! It’s true! We heard and we saw Go look it up at the newspaper store!” Nothing this special has happened before. Rumors the Clown will be here for sure!
The next day the newspaper store was a-buzz As people poured in to make sure it was just As their children had told them, their faces a-glow Like the bright flaming torches at the juggling show. Could it be? Was it true? Were their children mistaken? Were dreams fed to them by somebody faking?
The storekeeper shouted “You all think you’re so clever! Stop pushing and shoving! Such discourtesy – I never! You’re all here in my store for the very same reason – Are the Rumors rumors true or is somebody teasing?” The children stood round with their eyes all a-gape When a shout rang out “Here it is, right here on page eight!”
“Make way! Let me through” the town librarian barked. “I’ll take a close look with my assistant, Miss Lark.” They put on their glasses and read every word. Was the news printed here what the children had heard? “Now quiet everyone while I read the whole story; If you dare interrupt me you will surely be sorry!”
Come one and come all to the best show in town! We’re speaking of course of Rumors the Clown. At Monument Park West on Saturday night. The most splendid performance will thrill and delight! Rumors will juggle, ride bareback and walk the high wire And perhaps – if you’re lucky – swallow a sword blazing with fire!
The extravaganza is free of charge to all who attend, Sponsored by philanthropists and the hospital band For the benefit of sick children and orphans here and there Who desperately need fun from some people who care. Saturday at eight – write it down and be there! Monument Park at the west wall – that’s where!
“That’s tonight!” someone yelled and they ran home to dress In their dandiest clothes so they’d all look their finest. In dresses and new shoes and even a vest They headed out laughing, not stopping to rest They ran all the way to Monument Park West. But when they arrived at the end of their quest The west wall was locked, closed to all guests.
“There’s nobody here! Where’s Rumors the Clown? The newspaper ad said the west side of town!” And everyone cried, even mean Mr. Brown. In his shop the printer wore a terrible frown. He’d made a mistake – he deserves a fool’s crown For the “WEST” – not the “EAST”– is what he wrote down.
At Monument Park East Rumors sat crying alone The east side was empty for no one had shown. “My days as a great clown are over and done; It’s time to retire, go live in the clown home.” Blowing his nose Rumors pulled out his phone. “Bozo? It’s Rumors. And I’m so very alone.”
Piano music drifted up to her as she leisurely strolled the aisles of the exclusive Manhattan department store – not the unremarkable, annoying background Muzak one usually hears in waiting rooms and elevators. No, this was definitely different.
Being a devotee of the piano, she was convinced no one else in the world could possibly love its sound more than she. Enchanted, she felt compelled to find the source of the music.
As she approached the escalator, the volume increased minutely. Gliding down, gently floating closer and closer, she realized “this is LIVE music”.
Arriving at the store’s café level, she stood still, tilting her head slightly in the direction of the beckoning music. Sensing an invisible hand on the small of her back, she swayed slightly as the unmistakable melody of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” trickled above the polite chatter of the ladies who lunch.
“Someone is definitely playing the piano” she thought, quickly adding “Oh, please, don’t let it be one of those self-playing digital pianos.”
Now the music was clearly audible and she followed the winding hallway from the escalator into the center of the café area. Suddenly standing before her in all its glory was a glimmering ebony Steinway baby grand. The lid was open, revealing the hammers and strings, but concealing the pianist .. if there even was one.
As if on cue, she heard a silky rich voice as smooth as Maker’s Mark Bourbon and she imagined Harry Connick or Frank Sinatra. “She’s a fool and don’t I know it but a fool can have her charm.” As she made her way around the curves of the Steinway, the illusive piano man came into view. She kept her eyes downcast, afraid to look, and just listened as this sorcerer cast his spell on her.
Slowly she raised her head to surreptitiously glance at the singer. He wasn’t the handsome, debonair Harry or Frank; actually, he looked more like Billy Joel but when he caught her eye everything fell away and all that mattered was the here and now. She approached him tentatively, her hand gliding along the piano, eyes still locked with his.
Ruefully she thought to herself “Why do I always fall in love with musicians? I would follow this man anywhere.” The feelings deep within her heart, her body, her soul were ineffable; why they happen and where they come from she could not say. She sat beside him on the piano bench, their legs touching.
She laid her head on his shoulder as natural as a helpless infant. “Please don’tever stop playing for me.”
“Instantly Irresistible” read the label on the perfume bottle at a shop in Bangkok. I was, shall we say, drawn here after several misunderstandings with the Sydney Police Department. I called it “gaining a profit”; they called it “pickpocketing”.
Contrary to what the Sydney Police, my parents and my friends all say, I’m not a complete loser – just a partial one. I worked in a book store back home but got canned when I ‘borrowed’ a few dollars from the register. The shop owner called the cops on me, even though “he really liked me and hated doing it”. Then there was the ‘incident’ which brought me here.
Now I’m washing dishes for a restaurant, just barely getting by. The waitresses, all sisters, live together downstairs in a shoebox of an apartment near the supply room. I sleep on a cot in the basement and use the grungy bathroom – better than nothing. There’s a basement window which I crawl through when I get home late and the restaurant is closed. Only the owner and the eldest sister have a key.
Sometimes when the sisters are working I’ll go downstairs for supplies, take a small detour into that shoebox and help myself to their tip money. I’m wondering – can I be considered a ‘housebreaker’ if the door isn’t locked?
I have a clandestine girlfriend, too; her name is “Piti”. She’s a cleaner at the shoemaker’s shop nearby. I saw her through the shop window and she looked up and smiled. One dark night after work I waited for her outside the shop and asked if I could walk her home. She agreed but said only half way – her family would not approve. She lives with her parents and 11 siblings. All of what she earns goes to her family. She owns only a few clothes and a ragged cloth pouch.
I surprised her with a bottle of perfume which I found in a moldy wood crate behind the shop. She smiled happily when I called her “my Valentine” and giggled when I asked her to “be my baby“. She slipped the bottle into her pouch. and whispered “thank you, Sam”, which isn’t even my name but that’s ok. No one knows I exist.
After dark the next night I waited for Piti but she never showed. Disappointed, I skulked home. The same thing happened the next two nights and on the fourth day during my break I glanced in the shoe shop window only to see a different cleaning girl. “Where was Piti?” I wondered, becoming concerned.
Several days later I overheard the sisters talking. Piti had become horribly sick – an apparent toxic reaction to old perfume from a bottle found in her pouch. She had been in quarantine, but died this morning.
I was reeling. I did this to Piti! I killed her. She was a perfect angel, the sweetest part of my life. Everything I do hurts someone. In the course of three weeks I’ve gone from petty thief to murderer. Everyone is right. I’m a complete loser. I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself.
Psst! You over there on the other side of the screen. Yeah, you. I’ve got a secret to share but you gotta promise not to tell anyone. Deal? OK!
You may have seen my references here and there to a “new project” I’m working on. Mr. Bump (mrbump.uk) and I have been putting our heads together for a while and it’s almost time for the unveiling which will be Thursday, March 2.
I hope you enjoyed my post today called “Misty”. Well, keep “Misty” in mind as you follow my site. You’ll notice a theme for each post scheduled for the next two Sundays. I don’t want to give anything away so that’s all I’m gonna say except for this: after all our time together, you might know there’s something in addition to storytelling that’s very close to my heart.
That’s it. Not another word; wild horses couldn’t drag it out of me! I do have a tendency to be a bit garrulous so I better stop now before I give anything away. Are you curious? I hope so! We’re very excited about our joint venture and are looking forward to presenting it to you. Believe me, kids; it’s gonna be a lot of fun!
See you all on the flip side very soon and remember – mum’s the word!
It was one of those stormy evenings, the kind of weather that could make people think twice about venturing out into the elements. But “The Divine One”, the legendary Sarah Vaugan, was set to perform at the Blue Note.
Founder and owner Danny Bensusan’s business policy was well known: book big-name acts into a classy place with an elegant atmosphere and great food and the place would be packed night after night. That’s exactly what he managed to do and the Blue Note soon became the city’s premier jazz club.
I’d been working as a coat check girl at the Blue Note for a couple of months when I was “discovered”, if one could even call it that. The crew was cleaning up after the final show, me in the “Lost and Found” section of the coat room. It always amazed me how people could leave behind such things as mink coats and solid gold cigarette lighters! Were they that drunk or was money no object for the elite slumming it in “The Village”?
Well, there I was, stashing a forgotten cashmere scarf into the bin, absentmindedly singing ‘Misty’, when I heard a friendly voice behind me.
“Hey, you been holding out on me, kid? You’re singing like an angel back here!” It was Danny. “What’s your name, sweetheart?” he asked.
“Michelle” I replied, tapping my name tag with long red fingernails. “Michelle Grant.”
Pointing his index finger and winking, Danny clicked his tongue at me as if we were in cahoots over some kind of secret pact and walked off.
About two weeks later I got called into Danny’s office – something that never happened. I thought for sure I was getting canned but that wasn’t the case. Danny offered me a singing gig as a member of the group that performed with the house band. It was nothing special – just singing ballads while the people danced and dined – but it got me out of the coat check room and on stage. I also got a nice little increase in my paycheck and the clientele started recognizing me as one of the singers. I got to hang out with some pretty big names back then: Lionel Hampton, Carmen McRae, Oscar Peterson and the one-and-only Ray Charles who Danny booked for a full week every year.
So there we were on this particularly nasty night, ears glued to the weather report on the radio, hoping people would still come out in this February snowstorm ….. and we were not disappointed. Slowly the house filled up with fans eager to hear Sarah Vaughan. Danny was beaming, grinning from ear to ear. This was going to be a night to remember. There was just one little hiccup: Sarah Vaughan was nowhere in sight.
Danny kept pacing back and forth, checking his watch every minute. I could see him starting to sweat. Then the call came in: “The Divine One” and her crew were stuck in snow on the FDR Drive! They said they’d get there “as soon as they could” but who knew when that would be?
By now the natives were getting restless and calling out for the show to begin. Danny grabbed me by the elbow and said “It’s up to you, kid. Stall ’em as long as you can. Just get out there, sing something and act like everything’s okay.” Before I could object, Danny shoved me onto the stage; hundreds of eyes stared at me like “Who the hell is this chick?”
I stared back like a deer in headlights; you could hear a pin drop. Even the waiters stopped working. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Danny gesturing for me to get the show started.
I walked up to the mike with feigned confidence and in a hushed tone that got everyone’s attention said “Good evening and welcome to the Blue Note. I’m Michelle Grant and this is ‘Misty’.”
The audience gasped; that was Sarah Vaughan’s signature song. Even Danny and the piano man, Erwin “Sweetness” Brown, looked up in stunned disbelief. I sang the all-too-familiar first three words, “Look at me”, a cappella and “Sweetness” joined in just like we planned it that way.
I sang like my life depended on it and I guess, in a way, it did. When I was done the place was silent, then all hell broke loose, everyone standing on their feet cheering and applauding. I was floored, thrilled that they liked me that much! I twirled around in delight and that’s when I saw “The Divine One” standing about 10 feet behind me. Reality slapped me in the face; the people weren’t applauding for me; they were cheering the arrival of Sarah Vaughan.
I wanted to get off that stage as fast as I could but Sarah took my hands in hers and smiled broadly. She hugged me like a proud mama on her daughter’s wedding day and whispered in my ear “Nice job, honey – but you do know ‘Misty’ is MY song, don’t you? And you ain’t ever gonna sing it again, except maybe in the privacy of your shower! Ain’t that right, sugar?”
I nodded mutely.
“Now, what’s your name, honey?” Sarah asked.
I whispered my name and before I had a chance to scramble off the stage, Sarah turned me around to face the audience and raised my arm up in the air like a champion. “How about showing some love to my protégé, Michelle Grant? She took a pretty big leap of faith tonight by jumping into my shoes. That takes guts and I admire her.”
And the people went wild but this time they were clapping for me!
I wrote this story about 3 years ago and was going to repost it for Fandango’s One Word challenge which was “reasonable”. When I read through the whole thing, I couldn’t help noticing Fandango’s “like” at the end and a couple of comments we exchanged. Genius that I am, I quickly reasoned I must have submitted this for another one of Fandango’s word challenges so instead of going that route again, I thought “Why not share it with everyone?”. This is a letter from a mature me to a much younger me. I hope you enjoy what I had to say.PS: You’ll see I mentioned someone named Steven Tallarico; go ahead and Google him.I think you’ll be surprised to learn who he really is.
Did you ever wish you could go back in time to when you were five years old? That’s a reasonable age – old enough to grasp the difference between right and wrong yet young enough to be just a kid having lots of fun; not on the cusp of adulthood so it’s probably a good idea to try not to muck it all up.
If I, a seventy-something-year-old woman could write a letter to my five-year-old self, I might say something like this:
There’s a ginormous amount of ‘stuff’ that you’re gonna have to deal with in life so listen up:
• Everything you’ll ever need to know you’ll learn in kindergarten so pay attention. • Follow the Golden Rule, obey the Ten Commandments and listen to the Beatles because life really is about peace, love and understanding. • Mom and Dad aren’t the enemy; they’re doing the best they can so cut them some slack.
Right now you’re having the time of your young life. Your days are pretty much planned out. Mom does all the work and there aren’t a lot of demands on you. It’s mostly playing, eating, napping, doing a chore or two, sleeping; repeat tomorrow. Life is good and you’re a happy kid.
Sometimes, though, you’re gonna be so sad all you wanna do is cry and that’s ok; even big people cry. You won’t be sad forever. Other times you’re gonna get so mad you just wanna hit somebody, but that isn’t a good reaction – except if it’s Willie Casa; he’s the bully who lives three houses down. So when he hits you over the head with that plastic gun of his, you’re gonna bop him in the nose. And you know what? He’ll never bully you again.
Speaking of noses, yours is ok right now but in a few years it’s gonna turn into a real honker and you’re not gonna like it. You’ll get teased some and it’ll hurt. But hang in there because the most important guy in your life won’t care about that at all. He thinks you look like Sophia Loren and that’s a good thing. Besides, I know a good plastic surgeon.
Mom isn’t comfortable talking about a lot of personal stuff and you’re gonna wake up one morning to discover you’re body’s changing. It happens to all girls and while some of it is pretty yucky, most of it is really amazing. Let’s just say God knows what he’s doing and you’re gonna turn out ok.
When you’re about 13 somebody cool is gonna enter your life, coming and going for a couple of years. He’s a 16-year-old beanpole named Steven Tallarico – Google him. You might feel like kicking yourself because you didn’t run off with him but your whole life would have turned out differently and probably not for the best. Don’t worry. In 1968 you’re gonna go on a blind date and that guy will change your life forever and in the best ways imaginable.
You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes; everybody does. It doesn’t matter who you are in this giant world – you’re gonna screw up and believe me some of your booboos are doozies. You’re gonna hurt people and when the dust settles all you can do is apologize and try to make things right. The important thing is to own your mistakes and take responsibility.
Responsibility. Accountability. Big words with important meanings and so easy to overlook. They’re gonna be important to you and believe me, kid, there’s nothing wrong with that. People won’t always act the way you want them to; try to remember just because YOU think someone should act a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way for them. Let it go because it’s wrong to force people to do anything. And don’t let others force you.
Don’t be afraid to smile and make friends but don’t blindly trust people you don’t know. And if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If somebody scares you, scream your head off and run like hell because there are some bad people out there. But there are also a lot of wonderful people and most of the time you’ll be able to see the difference. Sometimes you won’t and people will hurt you. Shame on them! Cut your losses and move on; it’s their problem, not yours.
Nobody’s life is perfect, not even yours. You can own a lot of great stuff but if you don’t have a loving family and friends then you don’t have anything. You will be greatly blessed in more ways than you can count – not by the wonderful things YOU do but by the wonderful people in your life.
Some things I’ve learned along the way: • Listen to Mom and Dad; they really do know more than you (especially about Woodstock!). • Go easy with the blue eye shadow; it’s not a great look. And watch out for sloe gin fizzes; they have a way of sneaking up on you and knocking you on your ass. • Be a friend, lend a hand and don’t judge; you never know what someone may be going through. • Be respectful – not only of others but of yourself. • The popular thing isn’t always the right thing and the right thing isn’t always the popular thing. That’s a tough one. • If you say you’re gonna do something, do it. Be responsible (see above). • Don’t be afraid to show your emotions and let people know how much you care; it’s how you know you’re alive. • Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned. • You’re gonna have your heart broken more than a few times and you’re gonna break some hearts, too. It sucks but that’s just the way life is. • Don’t be late. Period. You can’t control the weather or traffic but you can anticipate it. • Don’t lie or make excuses. Not only does it show poor character – it’s too hard to remember all your tall tales. The truth always comes out. • Smoking is not cool so cut it out. It’s a disgusting and expensive habit. • Listen to the Beatles as much as you can; not only is their music just about the best you’ll ever hear, you’ll learn a lot from what they have to say. • Just be a decent person; it’s really not that difficult.
And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.
THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO DENISE AT GIRLIEONTHEEDGE’S PROMPT WORD: BUBBLE SIX SENTENCES EXACTLY – NO MORE, NO LESS. PUNCTUATION BE DAMNED! FAULKNER WOULD DEFINITELY APPROVE.
My dearest Hope ~ How you continue to invade my thoughts in the stillness of the morning’s early hours; I awaken and for a moment I believe the dream to be true, the feel of your smooth yielding body next to mine, the tenderness of your kiss on my lips but when I reach out my arms, you are not there and a tear slowly emerges from the corner of my eye.
Somehow I manage to get through the disorder that is my life but without you I am not truly alive – I merely exist; you asked so little of me and brought unimaginable joy to my lonely world for you were my princess and I took great pleasure dressing you in satin and lace, your shining blue eyes sparkling with excitement whenever I brought home a gift for you and you delighted in each present, whether a bottle of perfume or a book of poems which I would read to you every night.
Yet, in all honesty, those steamy sensual sex games we played are what I miss the most for you were insatiable, your beautiful mouth smiling with desire, your lithe body as malleable and compliant as the branches of a willow tree; we fit together perfectly and those intimate times we shared together in our bed are etched in my mind forever.
Leaving you in the morning to go to work was torture, especially that one morning when you looked so beautiful as you slept that I didn’t have the heart to wake you so instead I placed a single rose on your breast for you to discover when you awoke and I quietly closed the door behind me leaving you alone, my darling, to dream – a concept I no longer remember as dreadful nightmares constantly invade my sleep leaving me bereft; only the knowledge that you’d be there waiting for me when I returned was what got me through the day and I’d race home to see you, to embrace you, but that all ended one year ago when I found you lifeless on our bed.
Today I walked to the park and I when I remembered it was our anniversary, all the air left my body like a burst bubble leaving me feeling hollow inside; the children in the park were playing with kites and balloons, laughing with glee as the wind lifted their playthings higher and higher when suddenly one of the little girls cried out in dismay as the string escaped her hand and her balloon slowly floated out of sight, leaving the poor child inconsolable and I thought of you, calling for you to come back to me; that’s when I realized I had two choices: continue living the life of a lonely, broken man or to find someone to share my life – that, my darling Hope, is when I chose the latter for I truly believe you would want me to find happiness again, to fill this void in my wretched life.
I slowly walked home, retrieved my mail and sat on the couch, dejected, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed the tip of a familiar publication – could it be possible on our anniversary – yes, it was the Johnson Premium Dolls catalog with a large banner advertising 40% off discontinued blow up sex dolls, so with trembling fingers I flipped through the pages until I found another you, my dearest Hope; overcome with joy, I placed my order immediately and tomorrow I will insert this letter into a balloon, inflate it and release it to reach you in heaven as a reminder to myself to never again buy you roses with piercing thorns ~ My love forever, Lawrence.
Ancient Greek temples dotted the hillside of Agrigento. “Aren’t they magnificent, Camilla?” I tried engaging my wife of seventeen years in conversation.
Camilla always wanted to visit Sicily; now we were finally here but our vacation had been marred by the news of the death of Eunice, her closest friend since college. Actually, Camilla had been depressed ever since Eunice’s cancer was diagnosed two years earlier. She became morbidly preoccupied with illness and death and every little pain sent her running to the doctor. She had become lethargic and morose. The whole situation was tedious; I thought a holiday abroad would lighten both our moods.
“I don’t like this place, Nigel” Camilla remarked. “It reeks of death and decay. You can practically see blood stains on the ground.”
“Good God, Camilla! Why are you allowing your mind to give in to these macabre thoughts?” I questioned impatiently. “Feel the sun on your face. Look at the glorious Mediterranean surrounding us. Let yourself be transported to another era.”
“I’ve got a ghastly headache, Nigel. Take me back to the hotel!” Camilla demanded.
“But we just got here! Look at these fabulous gnarled olive trees. Why, they must be as old as the ruins themselves. Impressive, aren’t they? Let’s sit and enjoy the view. You’ve always dreamed of coming here, Camilla. Enjoy it!“
“How can I enjoy myself knowing Eunice is gone? How can I enjoy anything ever again? She was my dearest friend.” Camilla buried her head in her hands, sobbing.
“I know it’s difficult, my dear, but try not to dwell on it. Here, listen to this.” Retrieving a brochure from my pocket, I began to read. “‘In mythology, Agrigento was founded by Daedalus and Icarus.’ Just think of it – these temples have been here since the 5th Century B.C.! The contemporary glass and steel buildings back home can’t compare to these majestic structures!”
“Nigel, please! You think I give a damn about any of this? It’s meaningless without Eunice. Meaningless, I tell you! She was the light of my life.”
Camilla stared at me with frenetic eyes. I was beginning to believe she was losing her mind.
“Your life is meaningless? What about me, Camilla? I’m your husband, for crying out loud! We’ve been together for seventeen years. Does that count for nothing?”
“Oh, come on, Nigel! Isn’t it about time we admitted the truth. Our marriageis a sham! And now Eunice is gone! There’s nothing left for me!” Camilla turned and started walking away.
“Eunice! All you ever talk about is your beloved Eunice!” I yelled after her. “You’ve been obsessed with her for years! I always wondered but now I know why you were never interested in sex, laying in our bed with about as much enthusiasm as a cold fish. You and Eunice were lovers, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I loved her and she loved me passionately, deeply. I never loved you, Nigel. Never!” Camilla looked at me with intense loathing and I became enraged, jealous of her dead lover.
“I’m glad Eunice is dead, Camilla. I hope the cancer slowly gnawed away at her and her life was one of incessant pain. Oh, I’m so glad she’s dead and now you’re in agony without her!” I spat out dreadful words of rage.
Camilla picked up a rock and threw at me but it fell short. She started running and I caught up with her, reaching for her arm. She screamed “Don’t touch me, Nigel! Just go away and leave me alone!”
Pulling away, Camilla ran toward the craggy cliffs. In a horrifying instant she was gone, plunging headlong against the rocks, her body shattering like an empty vessel, and disappearing into the sea.
Aghast, I stood staring into the abyss. “Goddamn, you, Camilla!” I shouted. “Goddamn you! Go be with your precious Eunice!”
After a long while alone on the cliffs, I walked back to my rental and drove to the hotel. I saw no reason to rush back home. Perhaps I’d extend my holiday indefinitely, head to the Amalfi Coast. I realized it had been ages since I’d had any time alone. I inhaled the heady fragrance of the plumeria and eucalyptus. I exhaled slowly, relishing the stillness of the night.
A glass or two of limoncello on the rocks would be the perfect way to end the night.
If you’re just an ordinary schlub who would like to sound erudite and scholarly, nothing does the trick quite like sprinkling your conversation with Latin phrases. Here are some that you’re sure to find useful in common everyday situations:
Magister Mundi sum. I am the Master of the Universe.
Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare. I think some people in togas are plotting against me.
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes. If you can read this, you’re overeducated.
Mellita, domi adsum. Honey, I’m home.
Totum dependeat. Let it all hang out.
Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem! Stand aside, plebians! I am on imperial business!
Quo signo nata es? What’s your sign?
Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris. If Caesar were alive, you’d be chained to an oar.
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could…