LET’S FACE IT; I CAN NO LONGER SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. It’s not Insomnia, or Noisy Neighbors. It’s something else called, “I gotta go potty.” This happens at least once each night, regardless of my fluid intake and that is why we have a small nightlight in the bathroom.
When I crawl out of bed in the middle of the night, more than half asleep, it is like a scene from the movie, “Poltergeist.”
“Go toward the light, Carol Ann! Go toward the light!”
Without that nightlight, well….I hate to think about it.
I know a man whose love of the game makes me look like a casual observer. Let’s call him “Ron,” mainly because that’s his name.
Fiction Saturday – Continued
Chapter Four – Continued
“When she left, sir, she also took some money I had in the house.”
“How much?” The Captain’s eyes focused coldly on Dominic. Missing money was serious business.
“Six hundred large,” Dominic whispered. The Old Man cupped a hand to his ear, straining to hear. Dominic had to repeat it, louder. “Six hundred large, sir.”
Everybody on the porch perked up. One of the young men let out a low whistle. The Old Man shifted in his chair and stared at Dominic for what seemed like a minute before speaking.
“That’s a lot of money, Dominic,” he said softly. “Why do you have so much in the house? Where did you get it? You have a little action going on the side I should know about?”
“No, sir. I’m just careful with my money. I’m … thrifty.” Dominic could feel that his shirt was damp and beginning to stick to his skin.
“Cheap, you mean,” chuckled the Old Man. Reflexively his musclemen joined in. Dominic squirmed and tugged at his shirt collar which had suddenly become too tight.
“It’s for expenses, sir. To pay my boys…and I like to have some cash for emergencies and, you know, opportunities.” This was getting more uncomfortable by the minute.
ONE OF HUMANITY’S OLDEST RITUALS, aside from putting their names on the hedge clippers and putting the trash out to the curb, has been tattooing. Anthropologists have uncovered mummified remains around the world bearing crude tattoos.
How this practice began is a mystery, but I think the reasons then are the same as the reasons today – to frag off your old man and to be different just like all of your friends.
Fiction Saturday – Continued
On a pastel-colored sun porch that would have been more at home in Boca Raton than in the New York City suburbs sat an old man who, though frail, still comfortably carried an air of command. Shrunken from time and disease, he was almost lost in the oversized peacock chair. A glass of iced tea nestled in his left hand. He cradled it as if it were as delicate as a swallow’s egg. His attention was focused, not on the man who was talking to him, but on the game table in front of his chair.
Four young and muscular men lounged about on the porch, getting some sun and seeing to the old man’s needs and wishes. They respected his position and feared his power.
There we were in beautiful Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Look, a parking space.”) and we decided to pop into the local Staples store to pick up a few things – we tend to burn through office supplies.
At this time every year we have a Scholastic Solstice of a sort. For about ten days this place is quiet. The Public Schools have resumed classes while the colleges and universities don’t kick into gear for another week or so. As a result, the usually busy St. Arbucks is an oasis of relative quiet. The decibel level drops from “Karakatoa on the Wabash” loud down to “My headache has disappeared” manageable. The difference is both thrilling and humbling.
During the summertime when the schools are out, St Arbucks becomes a favorite haunt of the pubescent masses who come in, order a “Strawberry and Cream Frappuccino,” and think they’re drinking coffee – Oh, so grown-up. All they are really doing is getting a fortified sugar rush and turning into nonstop chatterboxes. The giggling alone from a table with 10 high school girls is enough to make my Curmudgeon Lobe work overtime.
It is different with the obligatory teenage boys who are also here, following the girls and trying to look macho. At least they are much quieter as they practice looking both sullen and somewhat dangerous or James Dean emotionally lost and in need of a cuddle.
These two factions are in St. Arbucks all summer, minus the two weeks when their parents drag them to visit the Grandparents in some version of Iowa. When they return though, they have two weeks of giggling and posing to catch up on. It is during those two weeks that we try to get out of town.
When the colleges and universities shovel their students into town they show up by the study-group load, monopolizing tables and power outlets for their computers and cell phone chargers.
As a rule the college age crowd isn’t as noisy as the younger chair-fillers. They just fill the sonic landscape with keyboard clicks, textbook page turning and low frequency murmuring about the validity of the scientific method and the real meaning of “The Fight Club.”
Whatever happened to the days when college freshmen argued philosophy in on-campus student lounges and not out in public where the rest of us can hear them and are thrown into fits of despair for the future?
It is during this all too short respite when the younger students are back learning how to cheat on tests from their underpaid teachers and the older students are still trying to figure out how to smuggle microwave ovens into their dorm rooms that the Chapel of St. Arbucks becomes a place for contemplation, reasonable discussions about unreasonable things and, on occasion, a venue for impromptu middle-aged performance art. Things that could never happen if the students were here sounding like a billion hormone driven cicadas.
At this moment I am one of four customers/worshippers here at St. Arbucks. Two of them are women in their thirties who are chatting and sipping quietly. The fourth person is seated at the table behind me and I haven’t heard a sound out of her. Perhaps someone should check to make sure that she is still alive. If she isn’t, let her be for a while – it’s nice in here right now.
That title is a slight (ahem) modification from the Roman writer Virgil and it survives into our modern lexicon because everyone knows that “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It also flies whether you like it or not. I know that as well as anybody, and I don’t need daily reminders, but I get them anyway.
Fiction Saturday – Continued – Chapter Three
The last thing she thought she would be doing on her cross-country vanishing act would be this–pushing a shopping cart up and down the aisles of a Target store in Indiana. The waitress at the truck stop had scared her enough to listen.
“If you want to survive you need to blend in with your surroundings, not just hide in a hole. That means getting rid of your New York wardrobe. Now.”
Beverly left her a hundred-dollar tip.
That sounds rather sinister doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be like that. It’s just that there are times when you know that something is going to happen, not necessarily a bad thing, and you should try to make sure it is going to go in the direction you choose.
What I’m talking about in my case is that I am obligated, by law, to start drawing on my IRA Retirement Savings by next January. If I fail to make any arrangements on the disbursement some fine and talented Federal Employee will decide for me. I find that possibility downright scary.
“This feels good, that doesn’t feel good, I’m taking my meds and we’ve been on vacation.”
“I’ve been there.”
This time my Doctor surprised me by opening up and telling me a bit about himself.
He is a native of India (I figured that out all by myself) and when he was a student he travelled extensively in the U.S. by bus. He gave me a hot travel tip (forty years out of date) that Greyhound Bus sold passes for $99 that were good for unlimited travel for 99 days.
Who in their right mind would want to spend 99 days on a Greyhound bus? Obviously, the answer is the man who is now in charge of keeping me alive.
When I did not express shock, disgust or fear and did not bolt from the room, he continued with his travelogue.
Back in the days of his youth, the 1970s is my guess; his ninety-nine dollars took him to Salt Lake City (I’ve been there). He wanted to attend a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and to hear their magnificent pipe organ in concert. That’s about it in Salt Lake City – unless you want to walk around town stepping over the outstretched legions of “Urban Nomadic Sommeliers.”
“No matter where I went I always carried my small suitcase with me that had all of my clothes and ‘essentials.’ I carried it when I went to hear the choir.”
When he gave me that detail I was lost as to where this was going. He soon filled in the blanks for me.
“As I sat there, waiting for the concert to begin, it got very quiet in the hall. Some people near me began to talk, saying that they could hear something ‘ticking’ and they were afraid that it was a bomb.
“Shortly, an announcement was made that the hall was to be evacuated because of a bomb threat. When I tried to leave I was surrounded by fifteen policemen. They escorted (his word, not mine) me into a room and asked me if I had a bomb in my suitcase. I told them that it was just my alarm clock that was ticking. I had no bomb.
“When I tried to open my suitcase to show them they became agitated and would not let me.”
At this point in his narrative I was laughing – he was not.
Of course, they found only the Good Doctor – To – Be’s Indian-made alarm clock ticking away loudly.
“After they returned my alarm clock I thanked them for the ‘VIP Treatment’ they had given me.”
That was his attempt at wry humor.
“I never did get to hear the choir. They wouldn’t let me back into the hall.”
Life is like that, Doctor.
After all of that my blood pressure was fine, my heart was still beating and he gave me the go-ahead to stay alive for another three months.
As I was leaving I gave him a new adage to think about:
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes you get the ‘VIP Treatment,’ but they still won’t let you back in.”
I have become so plugged into that thing that without it I feel like I’m sitting alone in an empty room, with the lights out, the shades pulled down, wearing a blindfold, and with earplugs screwed two inches deep into my head.