Archive | September 2012


J.P.’s father had given up the ghost. Or at least his body did. His heart carried on the struggle.

John Panella, Sr. had battled liver cancer for the last four months, relinquishing fourteen of the months he had been allotted. But he had lapsed in and out of consciousness, flirting with coma for the past three days.

Here lay a man who had been the pinnacle of who J.P. wanted to be. He wondered how a man of such lofty stature could fall so far, so quickly. Sedated now, morphine became his extreme solution in heavy doses.

“To make him comfortable” the nurse offered.

“To render him unreachable” John Jr. thought.

As so he sat at his father’s right side; his sister on the left. They took turns talking to the man who had given them every bit of life he could.

“I love you, Daddy!” his sister Louise whispered to her un-hearing father.

John smiled at the sentiment. But the reality hit him sharply. He couldn’t remember the last time he and his father had exchanged such words. It just wasn’t the way the men in his family handled things, he thought. He surely knows, J.P. thought.

Hours spent clamped to their father’s bony hands, black with necrosis and faintly gripping back. Breathing was a chore he had no energy to undertake, but it kept insinuating itself into his routine. The elder John gagged and gurgled. His children thought it was his last gasp. They held their own breath as well. But his chest fell and rose again. Still erratic, but still expelled.

John Panella, Sr.’s face was ashen and his eyes occupied deep depressions in his skull. His lips were turning blue and his hands were cold and still. His eyes flashed momentarily and a slight smile graced his face. His chest rose one last time ending in a long drawn-out exhalation. His last breath.

J.P. noticed that death felt the same as life did mere moments ago. His father’s battle was over. He needed not fight any longer. Now John Jr. and his sister could breathe easier.

The young man leaned close to his father’s right ear to whisper what had always remained unsaid.


Copyright © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2012



Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Every Sunday for twenty-two years, Peter, Paul and Frank met for dinner and drinks. It was a reason play catch-up. It always turned into a reason to get “three sheets to the wind”!

They were three friends, the “Tres Amigos” – Pedro, Paulo and Francisco, each with their own charm and specific diversion to drink. Pedro preferred the “Cuervo”; it’s golden elixir cured his ailments. Paulo had a palette for cerveza preparada, a strange blend of beer mixed with tomato juice, hot sauce, or salsa.

But Francisco kept his taste simple and his living clean. Frank was averted to Perrier water. It was of a different tongue both linguistic-wise and libation-wise! But he liked what he liked.

Francesca liked walking in the Spring rain. She liked satin sheets and had a passion for the theater. She was exceptional at interior design. She… wait, did I just say she?

Every Sunday for twenty-two years, Peter, Paul and Frank met for dinner and drinks. It was a reason play catch-up. It always turned into a reason to get “three sheets to the wind”! This Sunday, Frank’s secret came out. And so did Frank!

Salud Tres Amigos!


Copyright © – Walter J. Wojtanik 2012


“I have been handed the mantle of this day from sons of Christmas…”
Photo: SantaRob

Caribou Corners.
A lifeless tundra as some might see it.
Barren and cold. Hundreds of years old
and aging fast. Every last woman and man
born as raised in this place will defend her beauty
as their undying duty to God and this gentle land.
Coming into the light of a bright Aurora Borealis night.

We get busy around here once Labor Day comes around. And I know, it doesn’t help getting everything done in one night and sitting with my feet elevated until the Autumnal Equinox. It isn’t all that great for my waistline, but hey, it’s a part of my charm, although my back hurts. But I can’t worry about that now. There’s much to do between now and the Solstice. That’s when it’s “Showtime”!

The scene is astounding as the snow is mounding,
providing a hiding place for every small face playing;
the little ones, gloved hands and half frozen cheeks,
peek around the corner, pulling back just in time.
All work and no play makes for a dull day, or so they say.
But their work IS child’s play! Fun and games, by any name,
will bring as much joy as any hand-made toy.

Out of my big picture window, I see the glow reflecting off of the new fallen snow. It adds to the mood and that’s good. It’s hard to gear up for the best day of the year when the skies are clear and sunny. It’s funny, for a warm and fuzzy guy, I’m not a big fan of the warm and sunny. Heh, go figure! The diminutive ones are catching a good game of snowball. There is no fight up here. It’s just a game of back and forth. So what if once in a while you take one in the “moosh”! They’re having fun for now, but later today we will get serious (but, not too) and put our work on the front burner.

The breezes freeze the lake, preserving its serenity,
offering certain sanity in its perfection. From any direction
you can hear the sounds of icicles forming, their chime
performing a symphony in harmony with all of nature.
And those of small stature add their voices, soft lyrics
of an unknown, but haunting melody lifting in song,
as a throng of caribou comes closer to add their flair proudly.

Oh, it appears that the games have ceased. It sounds so peaceful out there. I can see handshakes and embraces, happy faces and traces of a wistful  nature. I think they know the time for play is over until the “Big Day”. I love this part, where they gather near the frozen pylon holding hands and singing their songs. Beautiful renditions of all the Missus’ favorites. I love all of these carols as well. Ha ha, look over that ridge! The reindeer are coming home to begin their preparations as well. It’s a swell time to be alive and I am glad for the reminder that this season is more than just shopping battles and commercialism. Peace and goodwill should be a daily ritual. But, I’ll keep working toward that end.

“WoooHoooooooooo!” the lumbering trumpets blare loudly.
“WoooHoooooooooo!” the response from behind the stables.
The call drips with familiarity, which is a rarity for these parts.
Hearts torn apart; old friends, lost loves, familial ties that bind
not unlike the leather strapping that harnesses their power.
From my chair nestled near the hearth of comfort and longing,
I smile inwardly. Warming me. A knowing nod and smile.

The beasts have join in the song. Loud and powerful, their wail tells the tale. It’s time to begin. Much like the factory whistles, it calls all present to be accounted and the small groups are mounted on the reindeer backs to carry the elves back to the Grand Hall for our meeting and “Get Re-Acquainted Soiree”. The first of many for the season. As I’ve said, “all work and no play…” It keeps the spirit fresh and the morale never sullies. It is so warm near the fireplace, I had better get moving before I start to nod off. I hear Mama in the kitchen clattering her pots and pans; her not so subtle reminder that the time has come.

The while I spend in unending service
for the nervous and the innocent,
is quite reminiscent of the hours spent at my father’s knee.
The fountain of knowledge and truth was he: mentor and teacher,
a preacher of the spirit that has run through my ancestry
like a common thread woven into the fabric of my life
and all the lives it has come to influence!

I get quite reflective and slightly melancholy at these moments. I recall many people who have gone on to the “Big Workshop in the Sky”. So many people who had carried the spirit of Christmas with them three-hundred sixty-five days of the year. And whether they were from Calcutta, India or Buffalo, New York or Liverpool, England, they all perpetuated the spirit and made my job so much easier to perform. I have been handed the mantle of this day from the sons of Christmas wiser than I. I’ve done the best I could and hope I’ve made them all proud.

For in the confluence of this charming hamlet, the gamut is run.
Charity is the everlasting gift. Given in a spirit based in pure love;
given from Him above. It beats within each of us; a joyous thrill.
When everything is still, you can smell the peace and goodwill.
The evening saunters homeward, the little ones retire,
burning with desire of this their hallowed homeland, Caribou Corners –
a pleasant little knoll. You know it best as the North Pole!

This place puts the biggest smile on my face. It is home and I am surrounded by my “family”. Every last person in this charming villa has become a part of me and my appointed task – that of making Christmas the best of times in this sometimes insane world. Unadulterated by the trappings of avarice and greed, each having what they need to live a happy life. Just like me and my wife, we are happy to call Caribou Corners…er, The North Pole our home. And do me this favor. Keep the spirit alive in your heart for all your lives. It is the fuel of this joy. And also remember. I’m watching!

I am Santa Claus!


Hiram Fletcher had a seemingly impossible task. Even as the dust settled on the city of his birth after the unspeakable horror of two airplanes explosively hitting the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Bureau of Information had assigned him to get an accounting of the victims.

Oh, there were people getting the names of the fallen and the First Responders who bravely went in to the buildings as other hurriedly rushed out. An easier task than befell Hiram.

He couldn’t figure out why the information he sought would have any bearing or historic significance on the tragedy. Fletcher needed to find out what political affiliation these people held.

When he hit the streets he saw the devastation. And the depression and the utter disbelief that something so illogical could befall New York City and reverberate throughout America. But he had an assignment and his duty to his superiors drove him onward.

“Excuse me, Sir?” Hiram approached a gentleman clutching a photograph of a woman with two children. “Have you lost someone?” he absent-mindedly asked.

“Are you with the government?” the man started holding out his portrait. “My wife? Have you seen my wife?”

His tears fell. His words coming in thick sobs.
His friend and partner. His wife; the mother of his two children. Nowhere to be found.

“No sir, no I haven’t seen her. Could you tell me something?” Hiram said almost afraid to ask. “What was you wife’s party affiliation?”

The man looked at Hiram incredulously.

“Wha… my wife’s par… YOU SON OF A BITCH! FUCK YOU!”

The man stormed off glancing back at Hiram briefly before continuing.

Hiram felt the piercing thrust of the man’s painful daggers gouge out a piece of his heart. He went in search of another survivor.

A woman stood motionless. A blank stare filled her eyes. Looking for the towers of that impressive landmark.

“They’re not there” she mumbled. “The towers… they’re… gone!” she turned to Hiram. The pain that resided upon her face made Hiram move on to find another person.

He found a firefighter, dust encrusted and composing himself for another foray into the mire.

“Can I help you sir?” the First Responder asked.

“I’m… um, with the Bureau of Information. Can I… um, ask you…” Hiram started as the young man rose to stand.

“Look, I’d love to answer your questions, but right now I have to get back there. My brother is missing. I have a lot of “brothers” missing here.”

“Just one question? Your brother was he affiliated with any political party?” Hiram blurted.

The Responder exhaled deeply. “Buddy, let me give you some information for free. Don’t go around asking that question of too many people. People have died here. Friends, and brothers and wives; husbands. Fine people all! Does it matter if they were Republican or Democrat or whatever? Leave it be!”

And he walked away.

Hiram proceeded to perform his job finding much truth in the firefighter’s words. He walked all afternoon meeting the same resistance. Fletcher’s report would be a surprise to his supervisor.

There were no Republicans killed in the tragedy. No democrats fell silent. The number of Conservatives and Liberals were equal. Zero.
His breakdown was very brief and spoke volumes.
The people who died were Americans.

Attached to the report, Hiram Fletcher included his resignation. What did it matter?