Story # 30 — On the Bus

The very first time that she became aware of him was on the city bus. She was on her way to a conference where she was going to do a presentation entitled “The Inequities of Healthcare Delivery for the Working Poor.” It was a Thursday somewhere around 7:00 am. She had caught the bus at her usual stop at 6:49 am. Too damned early for her liking. Usually she tried to get a seat near the front of the bus, but today all those seats were filled up by frail elders who looked like they were about to embark on an excursion; they all carried various kinds of shopping bags. As she was heading towards the back of the bus she heard two of the women say that they hoped all the good bread and pastries were not picked over by the time they arrived. Apparently it was some kind of  “Free Pastry and Bread Day” at the Salvation Army. It always amazed her how some seniors could get up and go so early in the day when it was sometimes such a struggle for her. She found an aisle seat towards the back of the bus; it was the last available one. Even though the bus was usually crowded at this time of day, today it seemed even more so. He was actually sitting on the seat opposite her, across the aisle; but she had not noticed him right away. She was perusing her notes on her forthcoming presentation. She finally noticed him when he got up a couple of stops later and gave his seat to a young very pregnant woman. He had put his hand on the grip bar near her seat. He had the most exquisite turquoise ring, and it matched the color of his eyes…perfectly. The splendor of the ring and the intoxication of his eyes actually took her breath away for a moment. She became totally disoriented and missed her stop. She sort of zoned out there for a few minutes; the rich sensuous color of turquoise engulfing her. She got off the bus at two stops after the one she was supposed to get off at, which did not cause her any significant inconvenience; she only had a few extra blocks to walk. She had left the house a bit early anyway and planned to get to the conference earlier than necessary so she could get her bearings before her presentation. All was OK. That night she dreamt of him. Well, she really dreamt of an African Lion, but the lion had His Eyes and was wearing His Ring on one of his front paws. Even though she hated getting up and having to leave the house in what she considered the wee hours of the morning, on the following day for some inexplicable reason that she could not fathom, she again caught the bus at 6:49 am. She had no place special that she had to be. He was not on the bus. Continue reading Story # 30 — On the Bus

Story # 29 — Mount Haven

Truthfully speaking, it was not a new idea. After all, in reality most new ideas are nothing more than rehashed and reworked old ideas that others have discarded, forgotten, or misunderstood. That being the case, Christian Noble was quite sure that if he took this particular idea and repackaged it just so, he could easily shove it down the throats of his narrow-minded slow-witted fellow bureaucrats. Still, he knew he would have to do a fair amount of work to make this project palatable and to make some of his cohorts see things from his perspective; they could be so damned obtuse. Be that as it may, Christian had very few qualms about moving forward with his ideas. He had a keen track record for making the most mundane and dull sound fascinating and exhilarating. He also had quite a knack for getting others to see things from his own twisted perspective. The luxury of time and precision were on his side because this would not in any estimation need to be a “hurry up and get it done plan.” The problem was not going anywhere; it was in actuality worsening moment by moment. From every “in the know” source imaginable, there was no indication from past reviews or future projections that the problem in question would ever cease to exist. So, no matter if he started now or in 50 years from now, he could still hold on to his trump card. Christian had high hopes that if he worked his cards just right, this idea and subsequent plan of his would move him up the success ladder, or food chain, as some like to call it. His eyes were firmly focused on an Ambassadorship. The kind of cushy job that would take him to a Someplace far removed from the reality he saw and read about daily in this Godforsaken country. Of course, he had no idea where that Someplace would be. He had done his share of foreign travel when he had first graduated college, and he knew all too well that everyplace everywhere had its own set of intrinsic problems. But, in Christian’s estimation, the good old U. S. of A. was getting to be a more dangerous place to live in minute by minute. Even though this was a “no hurry” plan, Christian was more than eager to get it under way. Continue reading Story # 29 — Mount Haven

Story # 28 — Hormones

“Well, I think if you really take all things into consideration, you’ll agree that Lizzie Borden was not merely a psychotic homicidal maniac who chopped her parents into bits and pieces, she was also a woman suffering from a really bad case of PMS.”

“Oh yeah, well I suppose you think the infamous Ma Barker also had PMS.”

“Shit no. She was too old to have PMS; she was clearly Menopausal.”

“So let me get this straight…are you saying that all women who commit mayhem, murders and other such deeds, all have Hormonal imbalances?”

“Uh ah.”

“Hmm, I’d say you have hit the target dead on. After all, we all know how your Hormones have led you astray.”

The room reeled with their laughter. This was not the first time that Ellen and Candy had this little conversation, and it would surely not be the last. This exchange had the ability to crack everyone up no matter how many times it took place. The perpetual dialogue between these two friends was timed perfectly, as always. A little humor was sorely needed at the moment to break the suffocating tension that encircled the table. Ellen, Candy, Claudia, and Renee were discussing the abysmal situation of their dear friend Opal. They were all sitting at a local café drinking their mochas after their Tuesday night “Stretch & Tone” class at the YWCA. Opal was usually there with them, but tonight she was a no-show. None of her 4 friends had heard from her and they were quite concerned. Even though she was keeping more to herself these days, Opal never missed her “Stretch & Tone” class. The foursome were originally just chatting as to the possible reasons why she had missed the class, when Renee’s husband Peter called her on her cell phone. Peter told Renee that Opal was in jail, and he was on his way to find out about the situation. He had been driving down the turnpike heading for home when he got an emergency call patched through to him from his office. Peter faintly heard a distraught sounding Opal on the other end of the line. She said, “Listen carefully Peter, this is no joke. I’ve been arrested; I’m at the jail. You are the only attorney I know, please get down here ASAP.” The somberness of Opal’s tone told Peter that this was indeed no joke. As Peter took the nearest exit and headed back to the city towards the county jail, he called his wife. All he could do was pass on what little information he knew, which was virtually nothing. Peter did however add, “I have no idea what’s going on yet. I really know nothing. I have no idea when I’ll be home. You know I‘ll keep you posted as soon as I get any information that I can pass on.” Continue reading Story # 28 — Hormones

Story # 27 — Renewal & Redemption

Everything that is new and young becomes used and old; that is universal law. What is born eventually dies; that, too, is universal law. In some religious and spiritual belief systems death is merely a prelude to Rebirth and Reincarnation. It is the cycle of life. Not only do all biological beings from the simplest one-celled to the complex zillion-celled follow this pattern, so too do individual houses, neighborhoods, and cities. As affluence and newness move out of an area, destitution and decay move in, and then the cycle repeats itself. Regardless of one’s personal religious or spiritual belief in Rebirth and Reincarnation, more folks than you would guess have routines and practices that incorporate these concepts into their daily living patterns. What, after all, do you think Recycling and Urban Renewal are? OK, it may not sound as poetic as Rebirth and Reincarnation, but nonetheless, when you rebuild, refurbish, renew, recycle, or whatever you chose to call it, you are in essence allowing the phoenix to rise from the ashes of destruction. That is exactly the way it was for the southern most tip of the city. Once an outpost populated with those considered the “ultimate dregs of society,” it was later built up to become an upper-class residential area. A handful of generations later, it became a working middle class area, and in a few generations beyond that it eventually incorporated itself into the long-standing poorest section of the city. Those who were lower-than-the-dregs lived there now. As the phoenix rises from the ashes, the area known as Hyde Boulevard was more than ready for a major overhaul. Continue reading Story # 27 — Renewal & Redemption

Story # 26 –Vileville

When I was a young boy, my fondest moments were spent sitting nestled up close to Great Grandma Hattie and listening to her stories. She had a hearing problem and the only way she could hear anyone respond to her was if they sat close to her when they spoke. She did have a hearing aid, but she usually kept it in the drawer near the kitchen sink because she was too proud to admit to her hearing loss. I also enjoyed sitting next to her because she smelled of cinnamon toast and lilacs. Her stories captivated me no matter how often I heard her tell them. I always had lots of questions for her, even if I had heard the stories a dozen times before. Listening to those tales was a special time for both of us; our time together allowed her to reminisce and allowed me to be inquisitive. My Grandpa and my Pop told me that she was senile and that her stories were made up. I think that they were just jealous because they could not spin a yarn as good she could. I also think that way down deep Grandpa and Pop also believed her. It seemed that when she spoke, they were always right there listening and paying attention. My favorite Great Grandma Hattie stories were those about the town of Vileville. When she spoke of the place, she would pull out her old Atlas and point to it as her words fired up my imagination. Through the years, there were many times that I would search through that beat up ancient Atlas, but somehow I could never find the elusive town of which she spoke. That never caused me to disbelieve her ― after all she was so much older than I was and had a century of experience looking at that well-worn book. She also had the sight of an eagle and could see things that even youngsters could not see. When Great Grandma Hattie died at the ripe age of 110, I was given her Atlas. She had told me near the time of her death that she would pass it on to me. She even inscribed it, “To my Great Grandson, Mack…Enjoy all the adventures that life holds. Thanks for being my most devoted listener. Much love always and forever, Great Grandma Hattie.” What a glorious treasure to have bestowed. It was and still is one of my most prized possessions. Continue reading Story # 26 –Vileville

Story # 25 — Bye Bye Song

In this world there are forces, energies, and phenomena that are unexplainable, at least that’s the way it seems to me. Theories and hypotheses abound, especially where life and death are concerned; yet these mysteries remain as they are. Of all the creatures that live upon this Globe, human beings are the ones who perplex me the most. Many of them have what seems to be an unquenchable curiosity that goes beyond their survival instinct. This curiosity compels them to seek answers to those incomprehensible and unanswerable questions. They can’t accept things as they are; they are always poking their noses in where they don’t belong. It seems to me that once you start questioning that which appears to be inconceivable, you are heading for trouble in a big way. I‘ve learned the harsh lesson that there are indeed some things that truly and honestly are better left alone. When I think about people who seem to have an insatiable curiosity towards the mysteries that surround us, I think mostly about Glenda. It seems that her inquisitiveness was both a blessing and a curse. On the top of her list of things that she felt compelled to know more about was the death of her sister, Gladys. By all that she could ascertain from medical reports regarding her sister’s demise, the death was deemed “accidental.” But Glenda was far from convinced that this was the case. She felt certain that there had to be more, and this “more” seemed to be drenched in some sort of strange supernatural stew. As she contemplated the circumstances that led to her sister’s untimely departure from this plane of existence, the more she felt compelled to find out the true nature of her death. This compulsion drew her very close to the abyss of insanity. And actually, as Glenda attempted to sort out and write her findings, she felt as if she quite possibly had entered into the realm of not just sheer lunacy, but also into the realm of the dark side of the supernatural. As Glenda’s confidant, I was drawn into this story. I have had my fair share of doubts about her theories, hypotheses, and conclusions. I have always been the kind of person who has been more likely to take things at face value and leave the mysteries where they lie. However, as I review her writings and find myself now completing her story, as disturbing as it may be, I am inclined to agree with her…and I am also fearful. Here from her writings is Glenda’s story about Gladys. Continue reading Story # 25 — Bye Bye Song

Story # 24 — Flame On

Bryce’s favorite superhero was the Human Torch, a.k.a. Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. The guy could turn into fire; how cool is that? Everything about fire entranced Bryce. The heat. The dancing flames. The colors. The ability to destroy that which appears to be undestroyable. Fire is awesome. Bryce probably first learned about fire when he was around 3 years old. He had found some matches lying around and inadvertently lit them and burned his small fingers. The pain he felt on the tips of his fingers was somehow squelched by the hypnotic effect that the fire had upon him. From then on he was hooked on fire. Whenever he had the chance, he tried to get hold of matches, and then later cigarette lighters, or anything else that would produce a flame. He burnt his fingers more than once. Of course Bryce’s parents did not want their little munchkin injured, so they were quite fastidious at keeping fire-producing things away from him. Most of the time he had to be content to look at pictures and movies of fire; but they did not compare in any way to the real thing. In the winter when Dad put a fire in the fireplace, Bryce would sit in front of it staring as if he were in a trance, watching it until he fell asleep or until the fire burned itself out. In the summer, he was totally captivated by Dad’s barbecue grill. He would practically beg his parents to cook outside everyday. When he was 5 years old the inquisitive youngster received a spiffy fire engine and a fireman’s helmet at Christmas from Santa; he had really wanted a self-sustaining torch. At age 6, he went with his father to the fire department where the firemen told him all about fire and gave him some comic books about fire safety. But Dad, the firemen, and even Santa did not understand; it was not the accouterments of fire, but the rapture of the fire itself that drew Bryce in. Continue reading Story # 24 — Flame On

Story # 23 — Smokin’

Frankly, Franklin Museman was more than amused; he was astonished and flabbergasted. As he sat in the comfortable lounge/dressing room of the popular late night television program awaiting his signal to come onto the set, he found himself reflecting on the circumstances that lead him to this point in his life. Who would have thought that at 63 years of age he would become a big celebrity? There were even those who considered him to be a sex symbol of sorts. Him, Franklin Museman, a sex symbol no less, who would have thought? The world was a very strange place indeed. Continue reading Story # 23 — Smokin’

Story # 22 — Home Work

Going “home” was not, by any stretch of the imagination, her first choice. However, when she looked at the situation through objective and unbiased lenses, there was no doubt in her mind that she was indeed the one who should and could return to her childhood home. At this time in her life she had no strings attaching her to anyone or anyplace. OK, Maureen tried to think that she did indeed have a few of those essential strings, but when it came right down to it, her strings were more like loosely woven bits of thread; any sort of small breeze would blow them away. Her one sister was not at all up to the task at hand; she was 8 years older and in poor health. Not only was Georgette battling breast cancer, she was also caring for her 3 teenage grandchildren because her good-for-nothing daughter was a useless crack addict and all 3 of the grandkids were born out of wedlock. It’s true that Georgette desperately needed a break from her daily hell of an existence, but Maureen knew that going home would not be the answer for her. Of course there were Maureen’s two sons and a smattering of other relatives, but all of them seemed to have a few solid strings they were attached to and none of them were invested with the problem at hand anyway. It all came down to Maureen; she was the only one and she could see no way out of it. Continue reading Story # 22 — Home Work

Story # 21 — Self-help?

There is truth in the axiom that “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” People who became intentionally or haphazardly involved in Claire’s life knew all too well that the knowledge she possessed proved to be more than merely dangerous; it was downright deadly. Her whole life was structured around her magnificent obsession with how things should be, or how they could become…with a little dose of self-help ― preferably hers. She knew a little about a lot. With a blink of an eye she could and would tell you virtually anything you needed to know about anything you needed to have help with. She was the queen of “Do it, Fix it, or Make-It-Better”…even if it did not need doing, fixing, or making better. The upscale elaborate condo in which she lived was custom-built to accommodate her massive assortment of books, magazines and journals, reams of singular documents, DVDs/videos, computer disks, and anything else that might hold or save information. Naturally she also had a state-of-the-art custom built computer with top-of-the-line software and the quickest modem possible to get onto the Internet. Not only did she have DSL, as a back up she also had high-speed cable Internet service. Her computer was more similar to a mainframe than a PC. Her fixation on having the latest and best methods of information gathering/voyeurism guaranteed that all of her technological equipment had the potential for maximum upgrades. It was her premise that EVERYTHING could and probably should be improved upon, and she had the mammoth documentation to back it up! Name it, she had advice on: Common Cures, Health, Diet, Exercise, Relationships, Kids, Elders, Finances, Changing Careers, Finding a Job, Fixing and/or Decorating Your Home, Cooking, Cleaning, Making Your Own Clothes, Achieving, Meditation & Relaxation, Retirement, Recycling, Learning to Play a Musical Instrument, Staging a Coup, Building Bombs, Fertilizing Trees, Beauty Aides, Improving Sexual Intimacy, Addiction, Literacy, Communicating Well, Simplistic Living, Spiritual Enlightenment, Religious Rituals, ad nauseam. Even if you did not want to hear it, and with little or no provocation, she would tell you exactly how to improve whatever circumstance needed improving ― much to everyone’s chagrin. The trouble was that whatever Claire knew or thought she knew, only skimmed or dented the surface; she was by no means an in-depth thinker on whatever the subject matter might happen to be. Continue reading Story # 21 — Self-help?