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IT’S A DOG’S WORLD

IMAG1131_1Funny name these humans gave me. “King” It sounds rather nondescript; what is a king? From my point of view, I must be a big deal. I feel important for some reason. They slather me with praise, always telling me I am highly qualified for this title. “Good King” I heard the hairy one say to me.

The tall, leggy one with the tail in the back of its head… she looks lost in this place. Apparently, my kingdom does not suit her, and the point is moot to her. She seems to be miles away as she stand right there. And that other animal they have… they put in down to play with me. But I am as afraid of it as it is of me. And it smells funny… a cross between baby oil and poop. If it needs to go out, they should let it out.

And what is it about my tail that fascinates it? Always pulling me backwards. Let me voice my opinion just once, and they bring out that rolled paper thing and tell me I’m a “Bad King”. I think I’m getting the hang of this “Good King/Bad King” thing.

But there’s a lot of activity today. It looks festive. A day fit for a… a… well, King! A day fit for … ME! It smells good in here, and I’m getting hungry. Let me get up here and get a closer view! Such a nice spread, I’m glad I stuck around and not followed that poodle to God-knows where. At least I get to keep what falls off the edge.

“HEY, GET THOSE BRUSSELS SPROUTS OUT OF HERE!”

The King is fed. Long live the king!

GONE FISHING

Phil-bee woke up early. Before his mom. “Before the roosters”, like his grandpa used to tease. Actually, it was thoughts of his grandfather that enticed him to carry out this quest.

Philbin Barrett, Phil-bee for short, was grandpa’s pride and joy. Gramps was the only father Phil-bee knew, his own “a flash in the pan” as he heard his mother mention on the phone when she thought Philbin was out of the room. A mistake. A one-night stand, mom spoke in confession. Until then, Phil-bee had thought his father had died when the boy was three.

“The only redeeming quality of that man, was the little guy in the back bedroom” she was heard to interject.

So Phil-bee’s grandfather assumed the part as role model and teacher. A creature of habit was Jackson Barrett, and he taught his grandson the things Jack felt Phil-bee needed to learn in this life if he expected to go far.

All that changed as grandfather’s memory started to fade. Mom blamed some guy, an Al Shimer, for that. Ever since this Al showed up, grandpa just wasn’t the same. It was hard for Philbin to watch the only man who mattered in his life slowly become someone else. As Jack deteriorated, Phil-bee had to rely on the lessons learned from this good man. He tried to remember that man more than the person who did not recognize him any longer. Mom called it a “blessing” when Jackson Barrett had passed away.

“Gramps isn’t suffering any longer” she tried to explain to a tearful Phil-bee.

Phil-bee knew that along with being his grandfather and his teacher, Papa Jack was his friend. Phil-bee lost his BEST friend. If there was anything good in that revelation, it was that grandpa would live in his memory as long as Phil-bee kept him there.

The young boy’s mind was elsewhere as he stood next to his mom at Jack’s graveside. Philbin stared at the pile of dirt behind the square hole, watching the worms peek out and scurry back into the soil. The crowd of people that came to pay their respects was small. A few cousins, a couple of Jack’s friends from the service, Mrs. Burgess from their old apartment and the undertaker were Papa Jack’s only mourners.

Phil-bee remembered the talks he had with Jack as they sat at lakeside with their fishing line in the mossy green water. This was their classroom; where they had their best talks. Philbin needed to talk to Jack. But Jack was no longer there.

worms

“he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms”
(Photobucket)

Phil-bee dressed quietly, slipping his blue jeans over his spindly legs. He zipped his jacket right up to his chin and grabbed his ball cap. He gave the doorknob a soft turn and stepped out onto the back deck. Reaching down behind the deck chair, Philbin took the dented tin can that he had placed there last night.

The sun was coming up over the treetops as Phil-bee settled on the shore at their favorite fishing spot. The boy nestled into the moist grass as he reached into the tin can that held the wiggly worms that were distracting him at Grandpa’s funeral. With a shaky finger, Phil-bee hooked a fat worm. As he baited his hook (just like grandpa had taught him) Philbin started to talk out loud.

“Hey Grandpa Jack. It’s a good morning for fishing. I saved your spot…” Phil-bee started his long monologue.

In the early morning mist, a boy and his grandfather shared another moment discussing life and the future. Well, Phil-bee talked, and he was sure grandpa was listening. He had cast his line into the water a few times, but wasn’t having any luck. But it didn’t matter. Jack always said a bad day of fishing was better that anything he could think of.

Phil-be had talked himself out. He had told Grandpa Jack all he needed to say. He thanked Jack for being his Gramps and for teaching him stuff; for not being “a flash in the pan”. Phil-bee was honored to have been given time to be with Jack Barrett. He found peace there. Phil-bee forgave Al for taking Jack so soon.

“I love you, Grandpa!” Phil-bee tearfully whispered.

Philbin felt the tug on his line. He knew his grandfather loved him too.

IF MAN WERE MEANT TO FLY…

Running now, flapping arms and spindly legs churning, burning energy and kicking up the granular path.

Running now, flapping arms and spindly legs churning, burning energy and kicking up the granular path.

Joshua sat on the ridge that overlooked the shoreline. The morning moved on trepidation’s feet; slow and lumbering as if afraid to awaken the slumbering surf. He watched the sun rise above the trees behind him, knowing full well that soon he would be bathed by her engulfing warmth. Joshua waited.

His legs were splayed out before him, propped up upon his elbows soaking up the sounds of the water lapping the sand. Joshua heard a murmur as well. A cooing, a trill of a sound, repeating in as much as the waves receded and returned. The gulls were welcoming the day as well.

Joshua was amazed by their multitude. As the morning painted the landscape in it’s light, it became more apparent. The sand was blanketed in shades of white and gray and black, moving in unison, a oscillation of avian beauty. One bird raises it wings and stretched. Others mimicked his motion. Here at the lake – it may as well had been an ocean, the day began.

Joshua drew a sip from his drink box, watching. Studying, noting the flex and sense of community these birds displayed. Another gull flaps its wings, affording him space; drawing others to its movements.The flapping continued as it lifted off of the surface, drifting to the right swooping over the masses. More followed. All aroused they took flight moving a bit closer on the beach to land and migrate again. Joshua came to his feet. He wanted a closer look.

Joshua was twelve, and his curiosity was his most endearing quality. There was so much he wanted to accomplish before he was poisoned by young adulthood. His innocence enhanced him; he was fearless and driven.

Slowly, he approached the swarm of birds. Some were spurned to take evasive actions, others just moved to allow the boy to pass by. When he reached the center of the congregation, he stopped completely surrounded by his feathered friends. The sound of the waves crashing was muted by the cooing that raised in volume; a crescendo that filled Joshua’s head. He closed his eyes and felt the surreal sensation that made his feel more like one of these weathered birds instead of a wide-eyed young boy.

Again the flapping commenced. Bird nudging neighbor, awakening to the activity. More birds lifted off the ground. Joshua followed suit, extending his arms and moving them up and down in sync with his “brothers”. The birds moved more rapidly, and Joshua aped their arc. Running now, flapping arms and spindly legs churning, burning energy and kicking up the granular path. Suddenly, Joshua lunged forward, leaving his feet and furiously undulating his appendages. He had achieved flight. Briefly. And just as suddenly, the boy came crashing down to earth.

The gulls laughed and cackled. A wave of birds dipped down toward the boy and then headed out over the water. Joshua pulled himself off of the sand, brushing the grains from his lap, spitting up as much as well. He had a mouthful of sand and a belly full of laughter, again mimicking the gulls. And he smiled. Joshua knew little boys couldn’t fly. But his imagination rose up to take him wherever his heart desired to go; even joining the birds over the water. He was okay with that. Joshua rationalized that maybe he’d learn to surf instead!

LIFE AFTER DEATH

“It is required of every man,” the ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Marley’s ghost haunts still. It was His will to offer me absolution and contrition, but Marley’s mission seems to go beyond that. He has become somewhat of a practical joker. Never mind the poorhouse, Marley had better go to the nuthouse and reduce the surplus population of whatever plane he is assigned to remain upon.

I praise high heavens for the transformation I was afforded. Nephew Fred has embraced the opportunity to take this old fool back into the familial fold.

Cratchett is a devoted partner and friend; more friend than Marley ever was, I’d say without a doubt. But if it was without young Tim, I’d never had gotten him to branch out and become the clark I expected.

Tim. He walks amongst us as if his deformity was not at all normality. I assure him it was we who were crippled in our minds to find him less alive in his malady.

I work less; I walk more. More involved as a human being than being a businessman. And all the better for it, I might add.

The true spirits visit as well, but in celebration of the man I have become. Even the Future Spirit smiles more; at least he does not waggle his boney finger in my direction as much. For that I am most grateful. A fool and his money are happily separated when it is used to fete humanity. To Hades with vanity, Scrooge will be as good a man as this world has seen lo these many Christmases. God bless us, I have tried.

UP WITH THE SUN

…her long dark tresses, spraying the sand with her seductive “rain”.

Rob Caruso had given up all hope. He was far removed from the shipping lanes. No chance of rescue remained. He had been gone for three years. He was REALLY late for his last appointment. As a matter of fact, that’s how most people referred to their friend now. He was the late Rob Caruso.

But hope has a second face. When you give up hope, you actually open yourself up for any possibility. As he emerged from the thatched hut he caught a glimpse of all that was possible.

There she stood, a curvacious silhouette in all her natural beauty. She was Toostana. The name means Tuesday which Rob saw as ironic, since he found Toostana on a Friday. The native cleansed herself in the teal blue lagoon waters tossing her long dark tresses, spraying the sand with her seductive “rain”.

Rob scratched a hand through his disheveled hair and sighed. The thought of being alone becomes less depressing when shared with one as ravishing as Toostana. The thought of clothing also becomes less relevant when all that tanned flesh is the most stunning outfit one could “don”.

The sun crept slowly over the cliff…

The sun crept slowly over the cliff, illuminating more of the shore and bringing every trace of Toostana’s beauty to bare. But Rob’s paradise held this one fact. Who needed the sun to creep slowly over a cliff when Toostana was baring her beauty quite nicely on her own? All he could do was pray for midday!

TRES AMIGOS

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

OLD BLACK MEN OF CERTAIN IMPORT

But mostly they would sit and watch the world go by.

Calvin Watkins had been around the circuit for a long time, playing the jazz clubs in Chicago, and Cleveland. He even made it back home to Buffalo to serve up his sweet trumpet sound at the Colored Musicians Club. He recalled the nights he had spent in the smoky dimness listening to the likes of Ellington and Basie, Ella and “Lady Day”. His big break came the night Art Blakey invited Calvin onto the platform to fill in for his horn player. Blakey picked him up for the tour, travelling down South on the “chitlen’ circuit”. Calvin had stories to tell, for sure.

But his biggest accomplishment came when he met up with William “Boney” Claxson, who along with Claxson’s cousin, Edwin James, formed the Calvin Watkins Trio. Three musicians steeped in the roots of jazz, tempered in the blues, and honored countrywide for their smooth and soulful sound. They didn’t just make music. In a way, they reinvented it!

Eventually, the sounds evolved in many ways. And the fifties started to toll the knell for musicians such as the trio. The small intimate clubs started to disappear, opting for larger venues. And people wanted to hear the “new music”. The rock and roll train was catching steam, and although having had its roots in old gospel, rhythm and blues, it steered away from its origin in many ways.

The trio had a good run. But they had seen better days. Calvin still frequented the clubs that remained, resettling in Buffalo and the CMC. “Boney” joined him years later when James had been killed in a drive-by shooting while exiting the corner store. Edwin’s luck had run out as he clutched his lottery tickets, slumped on the pavement in a pool of his blood. He was dead before any response had been affected.

Calvin and “Boney” would sit on the bench outside of the club and reminisce. They traded stories about the great musicians they had known, and the clubs and the discrimination that they faced both as black men and musicians. They’d play their version of “Name That Tune”, whistling melodies from the day. But mostly they would sit and watch the world go by. And Calvin and Claxson never let a day go by when they would not pay homage to Edwin James and the talented men and women of the Colored Musicians Club.

Their memories brushed the same years. “Brothers” who battled their age and their fears. Oh, what a time it was…

CLICK HERE FOR A HISTORY OF THE COLORED MUSICIANS CLUB