Doodling on my notepad

Sometimes you just have to tune out. Yesterday was a perfect example. I attended a day-long training session for a software program I use at work. By the time lunch break was announced, I figured I gleaned just about everything I needed to know, so I thought, what the heck! I will duck out. Play a little hooky. (Oh, now, don’t you look at me that way! I’m certainly not the first person to take advantage of the situation!)

I was on my way out when a woman ran up to me, “LRose? Right?!” I turned around to see a high school classmate I hadn’t seen in decades. We went to lunch together and got caught up.

My escape plan thwarted, I returned for the the afternoon portion of the training, which proved inapplicable to my work as I anticipated. But, leaving in the middle would be every shade of rude, so, after I cruised my email and Facebook, I looked up UnOLWG’s recent set of prompts. While the instructor prattled on, I wrote a little prompt response on my notepad. Made it look like I was taking notes (You will note that I’ve already used one prompt).


Mary stood in front of the mirror, twisting and turning this way and that, taking in as much of the full picture as she could. 

“Pretty fabulous, actually,” she mused.

Mary felt wonderful to be back in a lovely, diaphanous sundress and not feel self conscience about how she looked. She imagined herself as one of those Before-and-After people on a weight loss TV ad.

“What do you think?” Mary asked her husband as he walked into their bedroom.

“Fine. And, by that I mean,” he quickly added before Mary could accuse him of anything, “you look SO fine! Umm-hmmm. Yes!”

Mary gave him a peck on the cheek. “Good boy. Always said you’re one of the best.”

“Oh!? Does that mean I can watch football all weekend, then?!”

“What? No! I said you are ONE of the best, not Number One. Don’t push your luck, bub.”


https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/olwg-80-british-racing-green/

WA Post Neologism Contest

It makes it around the socialsphere, so you may have seen it…I mean, not “neologisms” but still, stinkin’ funny. I can’t resist sharing.

  • COFFEE (n.): the person upon whom one coughs.
  • FLABBERGASTED (adj.): appalled over how much weight you have gained.
  • ABDICATE (v.): to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
  • ESPLANADE (v.): to attempt an explanation while drunk. 
  • WILLY-NILLY (adj.): impotent.
  • NEGLIGENT (adj.): a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in a nightie.
  • LYMPH (v.): to walk with a lisp.
  • GARGOYLE (n.): gross olive-flavored mouthwash.
  • FLATULENCE (n.): emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
  • BALDERDASH (n.): a rapidly receding hairline.
  • RECTITUDE (n.): the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
  • POKEMON (n.): a Rastafarian proctologist.
  • CIRCUMVENT (n.): an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
  • FRISBEETARIANISM (n.): the belief that when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there (thank you George Carlin and whomever else is credited with this actual neologism).

Mountain View Cemetery, 1943

Everett Duncan drove along the valley’s back roads, thinking he’d remember his childhood spent there, but nothing came to mind. Not much was in the valley in those days, except miles and miles of grazing land and a couple of farms. The thought occurred to him the road on which he drove might have once been a cattle trail. There certainly weren’t cars in those days. Not in this part of the world. And there certainly weren’t all the homesteads and houses that now dotted the country highway. The only thing he recognized were the mountains to the east.

“Sorry to say, but you’re late, mister,” the cemetery grounds-keep said when Everett arrived at the Mountain View Cemetery’s funeral home. Everett apologized. The drive from Barrettsville took much longer than the man at the filling station said it would.

“Well, I guess I can point you in the right direction of where you think your family is buried, but you’ll have to forgive if’n I cain’t take you out there myself. Daylight’s fading and I got a service t’marra mornin’.”

“I’m OK to find it. Just point me in the right direction,” Everett replied.

The section with the unmarked graves—what folks used to call the pauper’s grave yard—was on the far southern edge of the cemetery, on a hillside that faced away from the view of the mountains that gave the cemetery its name. Somewhere among the hundreds of plots defined by only by a chunk of un-carved granite were Everett’s parents and sisters. All four were laid to rest in just two unfinished clapboard coffins, one containing the bodies of his parents and the other his sisters, buried one on top of the other in a single plot. On the next hillside over stood several large mausoleums. Everett had to bend over to shield his eyes from the unbearable glare of the setting sun bouncing off one gilded crypt. Even in death, Everett grumbled to himself, the bastards have to lord it over these wretched souls.

A cousin told Everett the grave was 26 paces due east of a tree that stood in the middle of the pauper’s grave yard. Everett spotted the tree and made his way to it. He noted the setting sun’s location near the horizon, then turned his back to it, and marked 26 paces. He stopped and reviewed the granite stones in his immediate vicinity, looking for one with a small yellow cross his cousin told him to look for, but saw none. He broadened his circle, walking several rows of Jane and John Does, but the marked granite was nowhere to be found. 

The grounds-keep pulled up in his tractor. A black lab in the back jumped out and ran toward Everett, tail wagging.

“Find it yet?” the grounds keep called out. 

“No, not yet. My cousin said there’s a rock with a painted cross. Something my aunt did so she could find it when she came to visit. Ring a bell?”

“Nope. Don’t mean it ain’t there. I only been here a couple years, m’self. If your family say it’s there, I’m sure it’s there. C’mon, Roscoe!” the grounds-keep called to the dog.  The dog looked up from its rooting around and barked. “C’mon, boy!” The dog barked again and flopped down where it stood.

The grounds-keep chuckled. “Stubborn mutt. Well, then. If you’re OK, mister, I gotta keep working on getting ready for t’marra. Mind if my dog keeps you company?”

“No, sir.” Everett reached down and gave the dog a scratch around the ears, and resumed his search. The dog popped back up and resumed its sniffing about. It raised a leg and let out a stream that splattered against one of the granite markers. As Everett watched, a feeling of emotional disgust came over him.

All these people, he thought, as if it wasn’t enough they had to stare at the hillside beyond with all the rich-folk’s mausoleums, they also get pissed on in death as they did in life. Frustration and a tremendous sense of guilt overcame him. Everett sat down on a nearby bench to gather his thoughts and calm his mind.

He ought to have come home when he got news about the fire. His family’s deaths were shocking, naturally, but at the time it simply didn’t occur to Everett to attend the burial of people from whom he had grown so distant. It had been nearly 15 years since Everett had seen any of his family. He sent  a telegram to his aunt and uncle stating it was not possible to get the time off of work to come home, wired a few dollars to help with to cost of the burial, and put anymore thoughts about his family out of his mind. That was twenty years ago.

It was during the memorial service in honor of his eldest son that memories of his parents and sisters came flooding back. Watching his daughter-in-law hold tight to her infant son, sobbing pitiful tears into the baby’s blanket, that it grieved Everett his infant grandson would never know his father, or anything about him. Everett was ashamed he never took the time or interest to keep in touch with family.

The decision made to right a wrong, Everett set out on a trip back to his childhood home. During the trip, Everett tried to recall specifics about his parents and sisters. He remembered his mother had a high forehead. He would stare at her for long periods of time, because her pronounced forehead looked so strange to him. She had very thin hair, as well. So thin you could see her scalp. Or, maybe the picture of the woman in his mind was his grandmother, or maybe even his aunt. He spent as many days in those women’s care as he did in his mother’s. 

His sisters, however, he definitely recalled. Identical twins. Toddlers, the last time he saw them. Carrot tops with pale blue eyes and freckles. They weren’t happy, laughing children, as his own had been, or as his grandson was now. He remembered somber, shy waifs. One had a bad leg and wore a make-shift wood brace. He couldn’t recall, though, if it was Ellen or Elaine who wore the brace. 

His father was a sullen, dark figure; a broken soul who passed briefly through their daily lives like a silent apparition. The most time Everett ever spent in his father’s company was the last time he saw him. At the age of nine, Everett was sent to work in the cotton mill in Concord. The only words Everett remembered his father speaking to him was as the train to Concord pulled into the station.

“Boy, listen’ here: They tell me there’s a school there, so you learn t’write your letters, reads books and do your numbers. I don’ wanna hear nothing ‘bout you not goin’ to dat school, ya hear?  And when you learnt these things, you see to sendin’ your mam a letter. She’ll wanna know you’s getting’ on. They’ll have paper and pencils at dat school, I reckon, so yous can write a letter, but ask polite, don’t just go takin’ it. Never, ever just go takin’ things. That’s against the commandments. You remember we’re God-fearin’ folk. Anyway, the company store’ll have a post.”

The train car door opened and without another word, Everett’s dad lifted him onto the first step, handed the conductor a ticket, then shooed him on with a wave of hand. And that was that. 

A breeze had picked up, and the sun was nearly set below the horizon. Everett knew his search for the grave was hopeless. His cousin would feign surprise when he phoned her later that night to say he couldn’t find the stone with the small yellow painted cross she swore was there. Over time, the elements and the lawn mower mostly likely chipped the mark away. Not that there was much he would have learned about his family if he did find the plot. The actual point of coming all this way was that, at long last, he could say he visited his family’s grave. Everett realized he’d harbored a little notion that, if he found it, he would arrange to bury his family in proper plots, each to their own, with proper headstones. Maybe on one of the hills overlooking the view of the mountains. Defeated, he accepted none of that was possible now. He said a short prayer asking for forgiveness, and then made his way back to the funeral home, the dog respectfully trotting along behind him.

As he pulled out onto the road, Everett knew he was once again putting this part of his life behind him. When his grandson was old enough, Everett vowed to himself he would share with him as much about Everett’s life and his family’s history as he could remember. He prayed again, this time to be granted a long enough life to do at least that for his grandson.  Beyond that, who he was and where he came from would have to remain unknown, and his family would remain in their unmarked grave, like all the others laid to rest in all the other anonymous graves, each a dim reminder of all that once was.


I felt so blah about my first go at the prompts, I had to take another stab. It was fun to retry.
BTW… the prompts are: Of course, she was surprised when I told her; shielded his eyes; the dog flopped; an unmarked grave; a high forehead; “you’re early,” he said. 
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/olwg-79-kumamotos/ 
https://tnkerr.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/olwg78-a-high-forehead-and-an-unmarked-grave/

Mountain View Cemetery

Brett Baker was the kind of man people referred to as the solid, dependable type. He had a life-long, well-paid position with the gas company, a modest,but comfortable home, a wife of 36 years and four grown children who were ably making their own way in the world. Except for the first few years after his father left him and his siblings to fend for themselves and their distraught mother, Brett had not known misfortune or adversity.

As was his habit on Sunday afternoons, Brett took long walks with the family dog, a hundred-pound Mastiff/Chesapeake mix he named Sasha. One of his favorite destinations was Mountain View Cemetery. Set atop the highest hill in the county, the panoramic view of the valley below and the mountains to the east was spectacular. Safely situated away from the world, amid those at eternal rest, Brett would take a few minutes to sit on a bench to take in the view and revel in his privacy. It was one of a very few things in life Brett allowed himself to selfishly enjoy. Sasha was always glad of the walk’s respite and flopped down beside him to catch a quick nap. 

One sunny Sunday in spring, when all the Cherry trees lining the road into the cemetery were in full pink bloom, Brett was jolted out of his quiet reverie when he heard a woman calling his name. He had never encountered another soul he knew on his visits, so hearing someone call out his name was startling. Shielding his eyes against the bright sky, Brett turned around and tried to make out who the woman was coming toward him.

“Brett Baker?” The woman called again. 

As she came clearer into view, Brett instantly knew who she was. Though the decades had taken her youthful beauty and slender figure, her bright blue eyes, infectious smile and long, sweeping bangs covering her high forehead gave her away. There was no mistaking that the woman now reaching out her arms for a hug was the first love of Brett’s life. 

“Rebecca!” Brett was giddy with a happiness he’d not felt in many, many years.

“I thought that was you! Oh, my. How long has it been?”

Brett shook his head. “I really couldn’t say. Years, of course. You look great.”

Rebecca laughed as she ran her fingers through her hair. “I most certainly do not, but you are sweet to say it. You, on the other hand, haven’t changed a bit.”

The old friends chatted for some time, catching up on where they had been in life, how it was possible that they had not run into one another in all these years, and what they were up to now.

“What brings you to Mountain View?” Brett asked. Rebecca told him for the past year she volunteered time with the cemetery grounds crew.

Brett nodded with a slight frown “Most people would rather work in a park, or a community pea-patch.”

Rebecca laughed again. “But it’s OK for you to take your walks here?” She smiled that wonderful smile Brett so fondly remembered. Every hair on his arms and legs stood on end.

++++

Of course, Brett’s wife was surprised when he told her, months later, that he and Rebecca had been having an affair. He followed his confession with the announcement he was filing for divorce.

“Just take that damn dog with you when you go!” his wife yelled.

++++

Brett parked in Rebecca’s driveway; a brazen gesture after months of hiding his car blocks away. He opened the hatchback to let Sasha out. Rebecca stepped out onto her front porch and called to Sasha. Rebecca gave the her a scratch around the ears as she let her into the house. Brett stood expectantly on the porch steps.

“You’re early,” she said.

“There was no more reason to wait any longer,” Brett replied, and then Brett Baker smiled the biggest smile he ever had in his entire life.

================================

Inspired by this week’s preamble story, and incorporating prompts from this week and last week, either as written or indirectly referred to. Tough set of prompts to make work together!
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/olwg-79-kumamotos/

No, really. I’m thankful!

It’s cliche, I know, but, this being Thanksgiving, I want to acknowledge I’m grateful for…

…the dedication of parents. Because of my indifference to parenthood, having never had children, these people leave me in awe. Their drive to make sure their children thrive is amazing to me. I came to this realization only after both my parents were gone. My relative comfort throughout my entire life is solely due to my mother and father’s commitment to their children.

…the chance to pursue a career of my choosing. Though it’s come at a cost—relatively low salary, but most especially the loss of a personal life—I know if the Fairy Godmother of Go Back and Try Again dropped in, I would say, “Tell my younger self this: Just because you are true to yourself, it does not follow you will have everything for which you hope, or wish, or even deserve.”

…that I love art, in all its forms and genres. Design, skill, creativity, color, form, evolution, evocation, emotion. Even if I don’t understand it, or sometimes am unable to tolerate it, I simply can’t imagine life without it.

…a landscape. Natural, urban, human or surreal. There is not a one I do not find absolutely spectacular.

…a beach. If someone told me I had to name a sacred place, I would name a beach, be it a lakeside, riverside, stream or ocean. But, particularly, an ocean beach and sea air. It’s as close to  divinity as I think I will ever find.

…my willingness to find a solution whenever trouble rears its ugly head. Oh, sure, adversity has made me gunshy. I’m not a chance-taker as a result. I’ve hesitated and put my head in the sand many times. But, eventually I can’t stand it anymore and find a way out or onward.

…the friends I once had. They are long gone, for any number of reasons, but if they were not in my life at the time I knew them, I’m not sure I would have been able to manage.

…now that I’m middle aged, the medical establishment. Even for all its faults, I’m grateful for a place and a people who can tell me exactly what the hell this thing is on my arm!

…a midlife crisis that steered me directly into the world of writing, cooking and photography. Just when I thought my creative life would never be fully realized, I found these outlets. I’m not all that good, but that’s hardly the point. I love the process, the discovery, and whatever successes I can claim. Just look at my smile!

…a few trivial things: wine, to name one. A handsome face smiling at me, for no particular reason. Perfectly cooked Salmon or pork. A beautiful garden and a stroll through a park. A well done BBC TV series. Novels and movies that enthrall. Fascinating documentaries. That I’m no longer hung up with what I look like (I credit menopause). Whomever created dark chocolate. Weekend mornings, anywhere, any season, rain or shine. Road trips. Unexpected chances (so exciting!) All the folks who came up with modern conveniences, as well as those who subsequently outlined how those conveniences are not actually beneficial, but the potential death of us all. Except kitty litter. Those of us with an indoor cat that is afflicted with a delicate digestive system knows that stuff is literally magic in a box.

Adrift

Is that my pencil case, full of the broken bits of glass I found on the beach? I have been looking for it! I miss fingering through it, holding each piece up to the light, admiring the dark ambers, deep greens, jeweled blues, and frosted whites. See here? Look! So beautiful. I’m so relieved you found it.

Where, you say? At the bottom of an off ramp? What were you doing there? Wh…why were you looking for me there? What made you think I would be on the street, of all places. No! You look around! I am at home! Where else would I be? Just look. Just look around, and tell me this is not my home. It is a sunny spring day and you can see as far out to the ocean’s horizon, just as always on such a day. Yes, the horizon! Are you telling me you cannot hear the waves on the shore down below the cliffs, or the gulls calling from high above? And just smell the scent of salt in the breeze! How strange you are. What is the matter with you? Of course I am at home.

Prompts this week are: At the bottom of the off ramp; is that my pencil case?; broken.

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/olwg-77-urban-fisherman/

Blue Mesa Dreamin’

Edmund’s mother Carol Anne found him in his favorite spot on the cliff staring out at the green valley below and the blue mesa beyond. Carol Anne flopped down next to him, exhausted.

“Found Dexter grazing ’bout half mile from here,” she said with slight admonishment. “Tied him and Honeysuckle up to the tree back yonder. Honeysuckle’ll keep him calm.”

“Thanks.”

“Ya know, one of these days, that horse of yours is going to just keep on walking.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ve asked you time and again, tie the animal up.”

Edmund did not respond. Carol Anne let out an exasperated sigh. ” ‘spose when that day comes Dexter goes and trots on down the road, you’ll just walk on foot out here anyway.”

” ‘spose so.”

“Well, that’s just fine, ’cause I ain’t got the money to get you another.”

Carol Anne took a good long look at her son. As he approached manhood, he looked more and more like his father. She wondered what her late husband would think of their boy. Moody and wistful, and nearly as silent as the grave, Edmund was a mystery to her.

Carol Anne stood up and brushed the dust from her trousers. “I left Melody all by her lonesome, so we best get a move on.”

“Reckon I’ll be along, by and by,” he said.

“Son, that’s enough daydreamin’ for one day. It’s enough I gotta be both mama and daddy to my bairn, than to have you running off every day to do whatever you see fit.”

Edmund frowned and mumbled to himself.

“What’s that?” Carol Anne snapped.

“Nothin’, mama.”

“I swear, boy, you test my very limits!  I mean, all the time you spend up here when there ain’t never enough hours in the day to get done what’s got to be done?” Carol Anne lifted Edmund’s chin off his chest, turning his head to look at her. “What you thinking ’bout all this time you up here, anyway, huh?”

Edmund wrenched his chin from her grasp and started walking down the hill. Carol Anne chased after him, “I am askin’ you a question, mister-man. You answer when your mama asks you a question.”

“I just think!”

“I’m trying to understand you, Edmund, I really am, but I cain’t know, if you don’t come out with it.”

They walked to their horses in silence, Edmund stubbornly refusing to speak. As they mounted, Carol Anne could see her son was making ready to bolt and quickly maneuvered to block him.

“Look, I don’t mind you wantin’ to come up here from time to time. It’s a lovely spot. I can see why you like it up here. But,” Carol Anne cautioned, “you have to pull your own weight. Every single day. You’ll be grown in just a couple of years and you cain’t have folks thinkin’ you cain’t, or worse, won’t pull your own weight.”

“Alright.”

“We understood, then?”

“I said ‘alright,’ din’t I?”

As mother and son rode together, Carol Anne chatted about any number of things that popped in her head, mostly about the ranch. Edmund usually let her prattle on uninterrupted, but this time something suddenly seized him from inside. He blurted angrily, “Mama, I don’t want to be a rancher!”

Carol Anne reigned her horse, forcing Edmund to do the same. “Where’s this coming from?” She asked.

“I’ve been thinking ’bout it a while now. I don’t want to be a rancher. I want…I…that is, you know how good I am at building things? How I like to fix things?”

“Sure am.”

“I want to build things.”

“What things?”

“Dunno. Buildings? Maybe trains. I dunno. Just, whatever. Build things!”

Carol Anne smiled the broadest smile Edmund had ever seen on her face. Her eyes twinkled. “Well, now. I think that is a mighty fine thing, you wantin’ to build things.”

“You ain’t mad?”

“No, sir! Not in the least. Not in the least.” She rode closer to her son and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Now, let’s get on home and finish up what needs be done, and tomorrow, I promise, we’ll carve out some time to sit and discuss this some more.”


This week’s UnOLWG prompts are: Tell me about it; blue mesa; You would if you loved me. Two of the three are more implied. I think. At least, I tried to make it work that way.

Dan

What a f-n cliché. Frickin’ corny, Dan thought. A windy fall day blowing giant orange, yellow and red fall leaves through the air. It was a scene right out of a cheesy chick-flick. All that was missing was a sweeping piano sound score. The thumping bass from the mobbed-up Honda parked at the far end of the parking lot did not match the postcard-perfect image. Dan shook his head. Something was always fucking up the picture.

Dan took a deep breath and stood up. Can’t sit here all day. He started walking south, not at all sure where he was going. Reaching for his wallet, he surreptitiously figured the bills in its fold. A hundred or more. The thought suddenly struck him: It was enough for a Greyhound home. And just like that, he turned west toward downtown.

The woman next to him on the bus was chatty, never drawing breath as far as he could tell. If anyone asked, he’d not have been able to tell what the fuck she was yakking about. He took off his coat, balling it up into a pillow, and lay back into his chair. He was asleep before she figured it out.

The walk home from the bus station was longer than he remembered. Passing familiar sights, Dan realized it had been a good while since he walked through the old neighborhood. He smiled when he saw Mrs. Stokowski mowing the lawn in front of her place. Dan gave a short wave as he passed, but Mrs. Stokowski only offered a tentative polite smile in return. Had it been that long? Dan thought. I wasn’t all that young when I left, was I? Am I that unrecognizable?

“You know, of course, Kitty never came back.”

Dan turned around. Mrs. Stokowski leaned over her mower and turned it off. “You know that, right?”

“I do,” Dan said.

“OK. Just sayin’.”

“OK.”

Dan gave Mrs. Stokowski another short wave and resumed walking. Why the fuck would she think he gave two shits about Kitty?

Anyway, just one more block, he thought, and it would finally, once and for all, be said and done.


The prompts this week are: A hundred dollars in her purse; loquacious; Kitty came home

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/olwg-75/