Archive | August 2012

LIFE SLOWS DOWN

“Flanders always adhered to the bromide: “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!”.
Image Credit: Photobucket/anhanh_2008

A man among men was Albert Flanders. A true leader; a man with ideas. He had spent his life in a hurry to get anywhere. If his feet were still moving, it was a good bet that Albert had a plan. He was that kind of man.

And people tended to take his lead. Flanders always adhered to the bromide: “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!”. The man with direction (Albert) was naturally the boss. The followers liked his ideas, but hadn’t the intestinal fortitude to see them through to completion. Those totally disinterested were best to just sit there and not be trampled.

At least that’s how it was when Albert was in his prime. It was hard to keep up with a man that was committed to succeed. And despite the consensus, success was NOT a bad thing; not something to be punished, only something to be celebrated. But as the years passed, folks found it much easier to just not be trampled. Albert still took charge, but fewer and fewer people were inclined to move forward with him.

“Teach a man how to fish, and you’d feed him the rest of his life” Albert retorted, “but I’ll be damned he’d still want you the provide the worm and bait his hook for him!” And so it was.

Flanders was old now. A shell of his former self; a slower version of the man obsessed. But he still possessed the inner fire; he continued to drive forward, one shuffle at a time. Albert still had a plan.

At least his feet were still moving. He was that kind of man.

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EXTRAORDINARY

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ~Lao-Tze
 

Philbin was a strange kid.

Called “Phil-bee” for not much shorter than his real name, he was always in the way. At least that’s how it felt to the most curious boy.

Phil-bee was the only child of a widowed mother; they were each others one-and-only, at least until Phil-bee took an interest in girls.

He was nine, a sort of awkward pre-teenie weenie, who had an interest in science and movies and a secret place under the attic stairs. Phil-bee liked to explore, and what’s more, he was darn good at it.

One afternoon after school, Phil-bee took a detour through the park (disobeying his mother’s orders to come straight to their apartment). But he had “discovered” everything he could under the beds and in the closets and was bored as all get-out at home. Phil-bee needed adventure.

And so the park became his new proving ground. Phil-bee saw a group of older boys playing ball on the south diamond. He watched them for a brief moment, but continued on his way. The trails wound between trees and shrubs and circled the picnic area. He saw a couple of old people on a paddle boat in the lake. They had to be old, the woman looked like his mother. She was probably 29-30 years old as Phil-bee could figure.

There were park benches in the distance. And there appeared to be an elderly gentleman on the last bench. As Phil-bee strolled the trail, looking at the birds in the tree and the geese on the lake, the old man had gotten up and shuffled down the path.

The boy tried to imitate the bird in the nearest tree, having found a new sounding whistle. Pursing his lip, Phil-bee blew, but couldn’t repeat the noise. He headed for that last bench to rest a few moments before heading for home.

But before he could sit down, Philbin felt something bounce off of his foot and skitter across the leaf covered ground. A brown wallet peered out from under the dead foliage, which Phil-bee quickly retrieved from the dirt.

Upon opening the wallet, the boy saw a photo identification card of an older man. Phil-bee couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the man that had been sitting just before him. He looked down the trail and called after the man.

“Hey, Mister! Guy from the bench…” Phil-bee squeaked.

But the man was nowhere to be seen. He was gone.
Phil-bee saw that there were dollar bills and credit cards in the appropriate slots, and photographs of a boy Phil-bee’s age. Maybe it was a grandson, the boy fantasized. Phil-bee knew a few things that his mother had taught him well. And sometimes a boy figures thing out on his own.

Phil-bee knew that if someone had found his grandfather’s wallet he would want it returned. His grandfather had gotten very forgetful lately and Phil-bee knew how important his information would be to grandpa. Besides, mom always told him that it wasn’t proper to take something that wasn’t his. They both agreed that those were the right things to believe.

Phil-bee tucked the wallet into his back pack and headed straight home. His mother wasn’t due home for a couple hours yet, but he let Mrs. Burgess in 1B know he was home. She kept an eye on Phil-bee.

The young man went over to the kitchen table with the brown billfold and opened it before him. The face on the card had an important look to it. Older people always looked important to Phil-bee. He had no need to count the dollars in the wallet, and the numbers on those plastic cards meant absolutely nothing either.

Only one number concerned Phil-bee. It was on line 3 on the identification card. “If found call: 555-7823” He headed for the telephone on the counter, dialing carefully to get the numbers right. Phil-bee heard a voice.

“Hello, who is this?” the shaky voice asked.

“Hello sir,” Phil-bee started. “I was at the park and found something that might be yours. Is this Mister Will…William Johns…Johnson?” Phil-bee struggled with the name.

“Yes. Yes it is.” the man sounded relieved. “You found my wallet?” the man asked.

“Yes. Mr Johnson. I have it here and I didn’t take anything or nothing. I just knew you’d want it back.” Phil-bee sounded older than his years at that moment.

“Is there someone there with you?” Mr. Johnson asked.

“Mom will be home soon. My dad died when I was three” Phil-bee offered too much information.

“When your mother comes home, please have her call me back so I can come for my wallet. Can you do that… uh, what was your name?”

“Philbin. But people call me Phil-bee” he said proudly.

“Thank you, Phil-bee” the man said softly.

Mom and Phil-bee and Mrs. Burgess were waiting in 1B when they heard the buzzer. Mrs. Burgess answered the door to the distinguished older man.

“I’m William Johnson” he said as Phil-bee approached the two people. “And you must be, Phil-bee?” he asked.

Phil-bee smiled as he held up the brown wallet, watching the man’s face light up. Taking it in his wrinkled hands, Phil-bee noticed how they shook just like his grandpa’s did. William reached into the wallet and took out the dollar bills handing them to Phil-bee.

“Here, this is for you. A reward for finding my wallet.” Johnson smiled.

“Mr. Johnson, I don’t need no award for finding your wallet. It was just the right thing to do!”

Phil-bee looked over toward his mother and saw the smile spreading across her face. Mr. Johnson smiled too.

“You have an extraordinary young man here” Johnson told Phil-bee’s mom.

Mom just smiled more brightly.

“Yes, I certainly do!”

NO MORE FIGHT LEFT

“J.D. sipped his drink. He thought it would give him “courage” and settle his nerves.”

John Dunn Sylvester sat in his window seat staring out at the tarmac and watching the loaders complete their chore. The Flight Attendant came down the aisle offering assistance and instruction. She stopped by J.D.’s seat.

“Sir, can I get you anything?” she asked.

“Huh? Oh, no thanks, I… no, thank you, I’m fine” came his distracted reply. Her smile offered little in the way of comfort or assurance. It would take more than that, he was afraid.

John remembered passing through the terminal thinking how appropriately the word irritated him after his journey. The doctors at the clinic were all in agreement. They labeled his condition with the same hopeless word. Terminal.
His cancer had metastasized. 18 months was the sentence proclaimed. He got nothing off for good behavior.

“Get your affairs in order, John!” the words ringing hollow in his head.

Sylvester was coming home to do just that. For a moment he thought it was a blessing that he and Beth couldn’t have children. But guilt washed over him, knowing that now his wife would be all alone. Her tears had been plentiful during their ordeal, but the determination as a last “second” opinion would surely open the floodgates.

J.D. sipped his drink. He thought it would give him “courage” and settle his nerves. But all that the Sweet Soco Manhattan did was excite the butterflies in his gut.

It is amazing how when your mind seems a million miles away, you don’t notice the obvious happenings around you. Announcements and recommendations filtered across the intercom.

“Approaching runway 19…”

“Tray tables in the upright…”

“Keep seat belts fastened until…”

The screech of the wheels as they contacted the runway, pierced him with a final thrust. As the plane taxied to the terminus, he tried to compose himself. How could he face Beth knowing he had refused all further treatment? He didn’t want to fight anymore. He just wanted to spend every minute he could loving the love of his life in his last months.

The line of passengers spilled into the waiting area, heading for the baggage claim. John had followed the others like cattle; mindlessly plodding along.

And there she was. Near the carousel. He saw Beth’s tears glisten down her cheek as she tried to retain some semblance of calm. As they embraced, he felt her shudder against his chest in muted sobs.

Pressing his cheek against hers he whispered “Beth, I love you so much!”

She gave a squeeze. Beth sniffed in her last tear.

“Let’s go home!” she whispered, never veering from his side.

PLAID DEFINED HIM

He was tall. Lanky, they called him but never by name. No one knew his name. Even he had no idea. And so far, no one came forward to offer any insight into who he was. Or from wence he came. He just wandered.

His facial hair was patchy, tinged with flecks of silver and bare skin. An unintentional beard for an unidentifiable man. Steel blue eyes revealed nothing of his former self. His past had indeed passed him by. All identifying features were random scars on his cheek and a nasty bruise on his right temple. Both appeared to be a symptom of what rendered his identity null and void.

His shoes were scuffed badly, having dragged him through mud holes and ravaging rivulets that ran from the building downspouts to the sewer receivers. There was a tear down his right pant leg, from just below his knee down to his pant cuff. Pockets were empty, no change for bus fare (and nowhere to go anyway). No comb to rake through his matted and disheveled hair. His back pocket held no wallet to identify him. The remaining pocket contained a tattered handkerchief.

“How you doin’, Sport?” the other indigents called to him. As far as he knew, that was his name. Ask him, and he’d tell you that and nothing more.

But the “tag” paid more attention to the plaid sports coat that was clutched to his chest, than the man in consumed. It had see better days. But then again, so had he. “Sport” had no idea where he belonged. And he knew that wasn’t a good thing. How could one fall so far that the face of the earth was not recognizable?  The guy in the plaid coat just didn’t recall.

THE POINT

“The rising orb of the Son gained the upper hand over the ravages of darkest night…” (Photo by chevygirl1064 on Photobucket)

Oblio and Arrow had come to the rendezvous point. It was an arduous journey for sure, but a trek well worth making. And even though it had taken him years to arrive, Oblio knew it was well overdue.

He had gotten there a bit early in the morning. The moon and the rising sun fought the night for dominance, and Oblio just watched in wonder. He had been under its spell; the magnificence of nature being revealed in metered increments. And as he observed, his dog Arrow sat on its haunches admiring the scene as well. His head cocked slightly to the right as if listening to his master’s voice.

It seemed the both were. The boy had read in the Manifests that this was the spot and moment in which He would appear. No one else gave the impression that they believed in His real presence in this world. But now as the promised “second coming” was at hand, it remained just Oblio and Arrow, side-by-side as they had always been since they were both young “pups”.

The rising orb of the Son gained the upper hand over the ravages of darkest night, as it crept ever-slowly into the morning sky. Obilo swallowed the lump in his throat, awed by the display that made his being there, more meaningful than he could imagine. Arrow barked at the sight of Its brilliance, singing his praises in Doggese as his tail swiped at the sand in sweeping arcs.

Oblio bowed his head in reverence. Arrow did the same. And the morning Son had returned. The manifest said it would be a sign, and by His sign you would know Him. And be saved by Him.
They would be nourished and protected by Him. Oblio believed it. Arrow did the same. The beauty of His coming was a sight they would not soon forget. It engrained itself in their hearts.

They felt sorry for those who did not believe. The Son also rose for them. But now, they’ll never get the chance to know!

GIVE A DAMN!

“…if Bonnie Blue could weather the storm of war to remain standing, then Scarlett and Rhett could find the ground upon which to rebuilt their foundation!”

Rhett Butler had left Tara. He was fed up with all that the South had become. Atlanta lays in ruin, and it seems the heart of Georgia had ceased to beat. But Rhett had come to the point where he just didn’t care any longer. He worried about getting through the rest of the day. Tomorrow had to care for itself for a while.

The smoke was affecting his breathing, and his cough had turned raspy and painful. Rhett Butler had gone a mile down the road before he even turned back toward the plantation. He did indeed love Scarlett O’Hara. He just didn’t know why the lady needed to be so headstrong and confident.

He walked on down the trail passing hulled out houses and shacks unfit for habitation. He saw the servants and house staff of one of the mansions standing outside of its smoldering shell, not knowing what to do, or more correctly, where to go. They didn’t want to suffer the fate of their escaped brethren in lieu of these circumstances.

Along the way he stopped in his tracks. Rhett had come to stand at the gate of the cemetery where he and Scarlett had buried their daughter, Bonnie Blue. The wall was crumbled and many of the headstones were flattened to the ground. But one stood above the rest. Bonnie’s marker was crooked, but still upright.

Rhett thought that this was a sign from beyond the grave; Bonnie Blue was speaking to him. He figured it said that if Bonnie Blue could weather the storm of war to remain standing, then Scarlett and Rhett could find the ground upon which to rebuilt their foundation and re-establish Tara.

Scarlett at upon the top step of her grand staircase when she heard the strong rapping on the door. She rushed down the steps to the bottom and then stopped to compose herself. She discerned the shadow at the door through the glass. Scarlett knew it was Rhett.

“Who is it?” She called coyly.

“You know damn well who it is! Scarlett, open the door!”

“Why should I open the door when you were ready to leave me on my own?” Scarlett demanded an answer. “Maybe I’ll feel differently tomorrow. Come back then!”

“But Scarlett, I love you! Why not let me in now?” Rhett reasoned.

“Because tomorrow… is another day! You say you love me, but right at the moment, I don’t give a damn!” she finalized.

“Damn, damn, damn!” she heard Rhett mutter as his footsteps faded down the cobblestone.

FLAT FOR RENT

“Shut up, and deal!”

The time had come.

After the first few years as newlyweds, still trying to climb the ladder of success, C.C. “Bud” Baxter had come to a crossroads. His plan to become a captain of industry as a Chief Executive, had fallen flat. He jumped from job to job, but apparently his “reputation” had followed him everywhere. His only conclusion was this: Jeff Sheldrake labeled C.C. as a insubordinate malcontent for refusing to allow the officers of the Insurance company the use of his flat. Sheldrake was a son-of-a-bitch!

Baxter guesses he always had been and would remain so. Those years at the “company” had been rife with bad decisions on his part. Bud’s ambition had blurred his vision at a great cost. Sure, the upper echelon loved the Junior Executive for the use of his apartment for their extra-marital trysts. But that whole episode between Sheldrake and the then elevator operator, Fran Kubelick, opened Baxter’s eyes in a big way.

Fran Kubelick. She had her ups and downs from the start, but that was expected, running the express elevator to the executive suites. The now Supervisor (since she had gotten Sheldrake fired in a sexual-harassment suit), she was finally reaping her reward in her quest to reach the top of her profession.

But, in Fran’s role as Mrs. “Bud” Baxter, she realized she wanted so much more than a crowded elevator and cigar smoke. She suspected both to be the cause for her stomach fluttering in the past few weeks. Maybe it was time to dive head first into the secretarial pool, and escape the motion sickness and rancid Arturo Fuente smoke. She had commented to C.C. that the mornings were the worst, sickness wise!

Up the three flights of steps to their apartment, Fran had felt nauseous. She wouldn’t make it to their door. Fortunately for the former Miss Kubelick, Dr. Dreyfus was leaving for his office and helped Fran to her door.
He sat her on the divan and gave her something for her upset stomach. Baxter came home moments later.

“Doc, what’s the matter?” C.C. inquired.

“As if you didn’t know, Mr. Goodtime Charley!” Dreyfus responded with a smile. “Look at your wife. She’s been sick for the past few mornings. Her middle is expanding! What do you think, Genius?”

“I…uh, uh… think…I uh… we… we’re going to be up to our elbows in responsibility…baby-wise?” Baxter had gasped out just as he fainted.

Fran rushed to her husband’s aid, just as the contents of her gut came spewing forth, soiling his suit and tie. Dreyfus broke an ampule of smelling salts to rouse Baxter back to consciousness. He looked Fran weakly in the eyes.

“That means we need a bigger apartment, size-wise, doesn’t it?” Bud wondered aloud.

Fran Kubelick-Baxter smiled her quirky smile at her husband.

“Shut up, and deal!”

 

Photo and characters from the five time Academy Award winning (including 1960 Best Picture) movie “The Apartment” starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.