Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2017

Archive for the category “Drama”

Throwback Thursday from July 2015

Throwback Thursday from July 2015

I Can Smell Them

theater in the roundA FEW DAYS AGO I got into a discussion with an acquaintance about what it is like doing a play in “The Round.”

Theater in the Round is where the stage and the actors are completely surrounded by the audience. There is no formal stage separation with the audience sitting “out there” beyond the footlights. Such an arrangement can create problems for both the performers and the audience members.

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May The Farce Be With You

MY WIFE, THE LOVELY AND WONDERFULLY OBSERVANT, DAWN, and I were having a discussion about our favorite movies when the “Star Wars” franchise came up. I remember seeing the first film back in 19…whatever it was. I know we had electricity, so it was sometime after World War One. It’s been a while that I know.

I enjoyed the movie, but despite all of the special effects and nifty costuming, I realized that “Star Wars” was really just a Cowboy Movie. It was a fun and rollicking Cowboy Movie to be sure, but an Oater nonetheless.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.

Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.

They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 37 Continued

As they passed it, they both looked over into the alcove. The dead man seemed so very small. Davis walked over and pulled the pistol from Lizard Boy’s waistband and started to stick it in his belt. Laura stopped him and held out her hand. He passed it to her. They left the bundle of cash locked in the dead man’s hand.

It was only another fifty feet before they saw a set of steps rising toward a carpet-covered door.

They slowly climbed the steps and listened. They couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side.

“Well, if nothing else, we have the element of surprise,” whispered Davis. He reached for the knob.

“We hope,” said Laura and pulled his hand back from the door. She would go first. The Mexican’s pistol pointed up. 

“Let’s go, my dear,” she said. They both took a deep breath of the warm and stale air.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 36

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Six

 

warehouses“It’s at number 162, Tomás. Drive past it and let us out down the block,” said Laura, scanning the fronts of the small warehouses and workshops.

The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.

“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”

The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.

“What the hell is that?” she asked.

Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.

“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”

“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”

Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.

“Bless you twice, Tomás.”

Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.

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Dear Me !

I HAVE NEVER WRITTEN A LETTER TO DEAR ABBY or to whoever it is who is actually doing the column now that the original Abby is among the Dearly Departed.

Just like everyone else, I’ve had personal problems to deal with, but when I have a question 90% of the people I know are lined up to give me “The Answer.” The other 10 % are usually the cause of my problem.

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It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

ONE OF THE THINGS I REALLY ENJOY about doing this blog is the freedom of expression it allows me. Monday through Friday is pretty much of a Nonsense Dance. I can let my “Silly Gene” run wild. Mutations happen.

Each week I know that I can come up with about five things that can make me, and hopefully a few readers, laugh – or at least giggle.

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It’s Not About Cats

MEMORIES? WHERE DO THEY GO TO HIDE? Why do they pop back into your conscious mind after a lifetime stored in the folds and wrinkles of your brain?

I had such a memory bob back to the surface the other day and, when it did, all of the details were as fresh as if it had just happened yesterday.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 32- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Two

 

pull-taxiThe cab was festooned with bobble-head dolls of Elvis, The Beatles, and Ricky Martin.  The Virgin Mary held the place of honor in the center of the dashboard.  Red and gold dingleballs circled every window and lying on the rear window deck was a three-foot-long crucifix.

The cab driver, dressed in a crisp yellow shirt, was doing his standard sales pitch to yet another pair of Yanqui tourists.

“Buenas dias.  Let Tomás be your guide for the day.  Only two hundred dollars—well  worth the price.  Tomás knows all the best restaurants and shops.  And I can get you the best seats for the bullfights.  My cousin is a matador.  Deal, okay?  Best price in Tijuana.” His accent made him sound like a parody of Cheech and Chong.

Davis looked at Laura, who was still holding the brochure outlining the benefits of membership in the San Diego Skyscrapers.  She shook her head.  This was a business trip.

“No, not today,” said Laura.  “Just drop us up on the main drag.  Maybe next time we’ll get the tour.  Okay?”

“Okay, you the boss, but, I can show you where to get genuine Armani suits for three hundred dollars, with free alterations.  Best price in Tijuana.”

“Another time, my friend,” said Davis.

Laura pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.

“Say, do you know any good photographers?” asked Laura.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Chapter 31 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 31 – Continued

pull-border-mcd“That’s two Egg McMuffins’ with cheese and two coffees, and thank you for visiting McDonald’s, Buenos dias.”

“And buon giorno to you.”

Laura picked up the tray and turned around to look for Davis.  He had found them a table by the wall.  The restaurant was already half filled and would soon be packed, just as Vivian had predicted.

“Here we go,” she said.  “Oh, could we switch seats?  I want to be able to look out of the window.”

“Sure, no problem,” said Davis.  They traded places.  Davis could see the side door that opened onto the small parking lot and Laura could scan the entire plaza.

As she poured a pink envelope of sweetener into her coffee, Laura’s eyes picked out the good guys and the wise guys.

“Vivian was right.  This plaza is overloaded with cops and I see three guys that might be Dominic’s boys and two more over on that bench back by the train.  He must have called in reinforcements.  I don’t recognize them.  Damn!”

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Happy Birthday, Momo

stevie-wonder-surprisedIT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR THIS EARLY IN THE YEAR. The sun is shining and the temperature is in the low 60s. If I didn’t know better I’d call it a Spring Day. I like it.

The only dark cloud on the horizon seems to be that it is getting to be time to take the Toyota in for its 30K mile checkup and an oil change.

“Open your hood, stick out your air filter and say ‘Ahhh’.”  The mechanic grabs the fan belt and says to hit the turn signals and cough. Rotate those tires.

I don’t expect there to be any major problems. It seems to be running just fine. It goes forward when I step on the gas and it stops when I hit the brakes. Beyond that I don’t ask for much. It’s a car – not a financial advisor or a podiatrist.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 30

Fiction Saturday

 

Chapter Thirty

 

pull-motel“Kids, I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.”

Vivian was near tears.  Davis was numb.  Laura was torn between comforting Vivian, trying to keep Davis from going into shock, and keeping watch on her own boiling pot of anger and fear.

“Vivian, I don’t blame you,” she said.  “It was just bad luck.  We’re all safe.”

But she did blame Vivian in a way.  She blamed herself as well, for accepting Vivian’s dangerous invitation in the first place.  She thought that, maybe, they weren’t all that safe, not any longer.

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A Quiet Morning – Screaming Comes Later

quiet2ON A QUIET MORNING LIKE THIS ONE WHEN IT’S JUST ME AND MY COFFEE I can feel the tensions of Life sloughing off like frost off the car’s rear window.

It is 16° degrees outside, but I don’t mind it right now because it keeps some people at home and away from me.

These days it seems like most people are screaming – at one another, at the government, at the world, at themselves. When things don’t go the way they like they start to scream thinking that will make things better – “Better” being the way they want things to be. It doesn’t work of course. It never has, it never will.

Self-Delusion is so much neater than Reality.

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I’m A Slow Learner

50183_2061823_5045_nlcvinyl_1_901930424__v13I’VE BEEN WEARING A SWEATSHIRT today that trumpeted my old college alma mater – well, one of them anyway. It took four different schools for me to finally earn my degree. I attribute that high body count to

1) Moving from one state to another.

2) Not going to class, and

3) Finally getting serious about it all.

My sweatshirt is from Baldwin-Wallace University. Never heard of it? It is one of those school that ranks at the top of the list nationwide, but to most people, it might as well be the University of Neptune.

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What’s Next ?

book1I’M GETTING TO BE A REALLY ANNOYING PERSON when I have to deal with myself. Nag. Nag. Nag. I just don’t give myself a moment’s peace. Would it hurt if I cut myself some slack?

Yes.

What is behind all of this? Lemme tell ya.

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Something To Watch Out For

tv1FOR THE LAST SIX MONTHS (AT LEAST) WE’VE HAD A MAJOR CHANGE take place in our television viewing habits. I think that this change has come about because of two things; Online services such as Netflix and Hulu among a number of others have begun to air some new and very creative programming. Just about everyone else has been wallowing in a Political Stew that has been tasteless, without any real meat, and triggering my gag reflex.

So, we were faced with a choice: Enjoy some new and excellent programs or endure sphincter clenching broadcast venom.

Not a difficult decision – let someone else watch all the stuff with zombies.

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A Life Well Lived

200wTHEY ARE DROPPING LIKE FLIES. Celebrities seem to be competing with each other – which one of them can die first with the most overblown publicity.

When George Michaels, erstwhile singer and public facilities critic, passed away recently someone mentioned that they thought he was already dead. Obviously not. The Obit that was being read on the TV sounded familiar to them. My guess is that George must have done something a while ago to get a mention on the air, and to save having to actually do any real work, the newsreader (“reporter” in their own mind.) simply pulled George’s pre-written obituary and read from that – and then put it back in the file drawer to await George’s permanent shuffling off of his mortal coil.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued

Fiction Saturday – Continued

pull-scotts-seafoodChapter Fourteen

 

The fog was in and the dusk was stealing the colors out of the day.  The neon signs in the Marina cast a fuzzy light.

By 7:45, most of the tourists had retreated back to the Fisherman’s Wharf area where the huge restaurants were shoveling frozen crab and other dubious bits of overpriced seafood into the folks from Iowa.  The Marina was now safely in the hands of the locals. Herbs and spices were mating to produce wondrous flavors that the tourists would never get to taste.

Dinner was scheduled for eight p.m. Davis had called Scott’s restaurant from the Safeway parking lot and made the reservation.  He didn’t want any snags.

He couldn’t explain it, but he felt like a teenager again.  He hadn’t been this excited about going out with a girl since his junior year in high school when one of the cheerleaders finally said “Yes.”  He hoped tonight would go better.  He double-checked the seams on his trousers, just to be sure.

It had been almost twenty years, but he could still feel his face redden at the memory.  It leaves deep and permanent scars when the seat of your pants splits open in the middle of a Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant on a busy Saturday night.

Why not just kill yourself and get it over with? he thought then.  You have embarrassed yourself by showing off your boxers in front of every kid in the school.

His date, the gorgeous cheerleader, was embarrassed because she was with the doofus who had just flashed his ass at the world.  Of course, everybody in the place had  laughed, partly out of all teens’ inborn sense of cruelty and partly out of the self-conscious knowledge that it, just as easily, could have been him or her with their polka-dotted butt hanging out for all to see.

Davis checked his seams one more time.

***

Sitting in front of her tiny makeup mirror Laura prepared for her new birthday dinner date.  Date?

“My God, am I going on a date?  No I’m not!  It’s just dinner.”  She shook her head, pushing the idea of a date out of the picture.  “It’s just dinner.”

She dressed in the nicest outfit she could put together from her shallow closet.  She wanted to look good for a dinner in a nice restaurant.  It was going to be a bit chilly out with the fog being in, but she refused to wear the denim jacket.

It was only a short stroll from her apartment to Scott’s restaurant, so she felt no need to rush.  She didn’t want to get there first.  She didn’t want to appear too anxious, although she was, terribly so.  It would be good to let him cool his heels for a few minutes.  He had made her break into a sweat in the supermarket, so a little turnabout would be fair play.  Let him think he’d been stood up.

No, she decided, he seems like a decent guy.pull-revolver

She flipped off the lights as she closed her door, checked the lock twice, made sure the safety was set on the revolver, and started toward the restaurant.

It’s just dinner.

***

 

He picked at his Dover Sole and she herded her scallops around the plate like they were little breaded sheep.

“Are the scallops okay?  We can send them back and get you something else,” said Davis, noticing her lack of interest in her dinner.

“No,” she replied.  “They’re fine.  I guess I’m just not as hungry as I thought.”  She looked at his plate.  “You’re not doing much with your sole there, I see.”

He looked at his fish and set down his fork.  “It’s really good, but I must not be all that hungry either.  Oh, well.”

Laura put down her fork and said, softly, “I want to thank you again for your help with that man on the street last week.  That took courage.  You didn’t know.  He could have been armed.  Thank you.”

Davis blushed a bit.  “I wasn’t raised to sit on the sidelines.  You’re welcome.”

“And…,” she continued, wanting to get all of this out, “I want to apologize for the way I treated you in the supermarket today.  I was rude to you and it was uncalled for.  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.”

She picked up her fork again and tasted a few grains of the golden saffron rice.  She avoided looking at Davis.  If she had looked up she would have seen him gazing at her with a thousand questions in his eyes.

“Laura, it’s me who should be begging for your forgiveness.  I should have just let you have that ice cream instead of making a federal case out of it.  I don’t know why I behaved like that.  I didn’t mean to upset you.  Please, accept my apology.”

Laura lifted her eyes to meet his.  “Apology accepted.  Now we’re even,” she said with a shy smile.  She shook her head and said, “You must have thought I was crazy.”

“Well, for a second there, I thought you were going to go postal on me,” he said.  She didn’t hear him.  Her mind was searching for the right words to explain to him what happened.

 “It’s just that – It’s just that I – I’ve had some bad experiences with men and I overreact sometimes.  I’m sorry.”  That was as good as she could allow herself to say.

“I won’t pry,” he said, “but if I can help in any way or if you ever just want to talk, I’m in the book.”

“I don’t have a phone.”  She had thrown her cell phone into a storm drain in Boston.

“Then,” he answered, reaching into his inside coat pocket, “here is my business card with my address.  I’m either there or at the donut shop on Chestnut, most times.” He extended his hand across the table.  Laura hesitated, then took the card and propped it up against the edge of her bread plate.

“Thank you.  That’s very sweet of you.  I don’t want to be a bother,” she said, looking at his card, noting that his address wasn’t very far away.

“No bother.  I’m a good listener,” he replied.

In an effort to change the subject, Laura slipped the business card into her bag on the floor next to her chair.  It leaned neatly up against the pistol.  She then turned the focus away from herself.

“Well, Davis Lovejoy, accountant and late night hero to damsels in distress, tell me about yourself.”  She smiled and reached for the bread basket.

“Me?  There’s not a whole lot to tell, I guess,” he said, and for the next twenty minutes he gave her his life story.  She stayed silent except to offer the occasional, “I see,” or “Really?”

pull-steel-mill-1Davis began with how he had grown up as an only child in a lower middle class home in Cleveland, Ohio.  His father was one of the last of the lifelong steelworkers, a man who went to work in the mills looking for a decent wage and job security.  By the time he was 55, there was neither for him.  Thirty-five years inside the hellish world of the mill had taken his strength and his health.  The only job he could do anymore was as an inspector and his failing eyesight was letting through too much flawed product.  By his fifty-seventh birthday he was on full disability and lost in the oddities of idleness.  By age sixty he was dead, in a sense by his own hand.  Because he could no longer produce, he consumed.  Alcohol finished the job that the Hot Mill had started.

Davis’s mother had doted on “her boys” for decades.  She loved her husband and missed his presence in her life.  She confided to her sister that she felt that she never saw her husband because of the hours he was working.  Later, when he could no longer work, she saw his body at home on the couch, but it wasn’t the same man she had married at St. Columbkille’s church when she was young and three months pregnant.

The Lovejoys were decent, hard working people, reliable to a fault.  They loved their son more than they had words to express.  They were determined that his life would be better.  That was the bedrock of their existence.

“No son of mine is ever going to set foot inside a steel mill,” vowed his father.

“I’d like Davis to be a doctor or a lawyer,” hoped his mother.

Dreams are promises chipped in whipped cream.

There was a needlessly long steelworkers walkout when Davis was 17 and a senior in high school.  The lost income was just that: lost, never to be recovered, no matter how good the eventual contract raises were.  The strike crippled the family’s finances.  Plans had to be changed, dreams deferred.

Davis had to get a job and the only work for a young man that paid above minimum wage was in the mills.

There were a lot of young boys looking for work with the steel companies, but having a relative already on the inside was the only sure way onto the employment rolls.

Four days after his eighteenth birthday Davis and his father went out for lunch and made two stops on the way: the first at the post office where Davis registered with Selective Service, and the second at the union hall to get his card.  A week later Davis was operating a ten-ton crane loading steel pipe onto rail cars and big rig haulers.  He was making fourteen times the wage his father had made when he’d first walked through the mill gate decades earlier.

On Davis’ first day, his mother saw her two men off to work.  She had packed them identical meals in their matching lunch boxes.

When they pulled the Dodge out of the driveway, she proudly waved goodbye to them.  When they turned the corner and headed down into the valley toward the mill, she went into the bedroom and cried like a new widow.

It seemed that, no matter how tight things got, the one bill that his father made sure got paid was the monthly premium to Met Life.  The insurance was always there, “just in case,” he said.

Davis stayed on in the mills after his father died.   He died in his sleep on the couch, in front of the television.

For the first time in thirty years in the Lovejoy house there was money enough to live on without worrying about strikes or imported Japanese steel souring the market.

Davis decided it was time to go to college.  His standing in the union and with the steel company helped him get reassigned as a “swing man.”  He became a part-time worker who would be called on to cover different jobs and different shifts as needed.  This would give him some free time to go after an education.

The idea of doing both things at once didn’t bother Davis.  Hard work was a family tradition.  Plus, he didn’t want to continue the other family tradition of being crushed and shattered by a lifetime in the mill.

His mother was proud and happy that he was going back to school.  It was the only part of her dream left alive.

Davis enrolled at Cleveland State University as a twenty-three-year-old freshman.  His plan was to major in Accounting.

He’d always seen the company’s white-collar employees going into the red brick office building just outside the mill gate.  When he saw them leaving at the end of the day their shirts were still white.

He imagined them to be the accountants and the metallurgists that were at the heart of the company.  He knew nothing about metallurgy, he thought, although most veteran steelworkers are practical metallurgists, almost chefs.  Making steel is done by recipe, adding specific amounts of this or that element to obtain the properties needed in any particular “heat” of steel.

The life of the accountant seemed more attainable.

In time, the concepts of credits, debits and creative mathematics took hold and his grades marched upward towards the Dean’s List.

The other students were curious about the “old guy with the filthy fingernails” who often came to class exhausted, but who always had his assignments ready, and who never whined about the workload.

During Finals Week,  just before Christmas, in the middle of his junior year, there was an accident at the mill.

Davis and two other men were loading oilfield pipe onto skids for shipment to Oklahoma.  One of his coworkers was a new kid, a local football “phenom” who had managed to flunk all of his classes at Ohio State.  He was so lost in the classroom that even the head coach couldn’t save his athletic scholarship.  Now the “phenom” was working in the mills, just like all the other men in his family.

The new kid was adjusting the slings on the crane that would hoist the forty-foot lengths of black, oil-covered pipe up and into position.  When it was ready, he gave the signal to proceed.  The steel lifted slowly and moved toward Davis, who would finesse the pipe into place.  Within seconds, the load began to spin slowly to the left.  The kid had not centered the load properly and it was starting to slide out of the sling.  At this point, there was nothing anyone could do.  Six forty-foot long steel pipes were going to fall fifteen feet to the concrete floor of the mill.  All hell was about to break loose.pull-steel-mill-2

Davis yelled out a warning and ran toward the young football star hoping to rescue him before it was too late, but flying steel blocked his path.  The nineteen-year-old stood transfixed at the sight of the tonnage now headed straight for him.  He never moved until the steel blasted into him, sounding like a million church bells.  He disappeared underneath what looked like a giant’s game of pick-up-sticks.

Davis went to class that night.  He had an exam to take.

He graduated with more than respectable grades, and was given a transfer by the steel company out of the mill, and into the red brick office building.  There he learned that there are other ways to die on the job.

He went to work every day in the Accounting Department doing billings on the steel pipe that he used to make.  He wore a white shirt and took care of his mother.  It was the hardest job he had ever had in his life.

After his father’s death, Davis saw his mother’s life unravel.  No matter how many people dropped by to visit her, she was by herself too often, and in the end, she died of loneliness.

For the first time in his life, Davis Lovejoy was on his own.  No one needed him.  There was no reason for him to hurry home after work.  There was no reason for him to go home at all.  There was no home.  There was only a house on a side street, in a neighborhood too close to the steel mills.

After one more bitter winter of being alone in his childhood home, shoveling snow and watching the old neighborhood rot, he decided to make another change in his life.

He wanted to be where the sun shined more, where there was air that didn’t carry warnings, and where there was no snow to shovel.  He used his vacation time to scout out likely cities.  When he got to San Francisco he felt comfortable at once.  The cool breeze off the ocean carried a salty tang and the warm sun let everything blossom.

So, at almost thirty years of age, Davis said goodbye to what was left and planted himself in the town that proudly referred to itself as “The City.”

“So, I’ve been here almost five years now.  I guess that’s pretty much it,” he said with a small shrug.  “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”

“Not at all.”  Laura looked at him and felt safe.

“Now, let’s hear about you, ‘Laura Smith,Woman of Mystery’,” said Davis, a smile on his face and in his voice.

“Another time, perhaps,” she said.  “But, now, I’d like another cup of coffee.”

to be continued6

 

 

 

 

I Decline To Recline

retired1EVEN THOUGH I’M TECHNICALLY RETIRED I still find my days filled. I’m not “busy,” but “occupied.” And I don’t mind that at all. I think it helps to keep my mind and body just clicking along.

We have all known people who have retired only to take up permanent residence in a recliner in front of the TV. That is what they do – and they are dead within a year. These are also the same people who, if you asked them to tell you about themselves, would start off by talking about what they did for a living. I’ve never understood people like that.

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