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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.

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HONORS AND AWARDS

ShoesIt was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

He lived a honorable life; a loving husband, a doting father. He was the perfect son and brother, a hard-working employee and he did works of charity. Christopher Blandings only did what he had been put on this earth to do.

There were times that he wondered if it was all worth the trouble. Christopher was never one for accolades and acknowledgements; most of his meanderings were done in the strictest anonymity. It was just that the world seemed so out of step with the morals he was raised upon. People never seemed to understand or appreciate the way things were. Blandings was baffled.

His wife sympathized with her mate, but being almost a decade younger than he, she straddled the fence between the generations. But she believed in his good and kind heart. She loved his honesty and his loyalty. He surprised her on occasion with breakfast in bed or a tender back rub. And he had a fire burning deep within him that made Jessica lose control. There was nothing bland about Blandings.

She loved her man. She loved Christopher right up to the day he died. Sadness and grief were not emotions to which she prescribed. Jessica knew life was a celebration. And death was clearly an extension of that celebration. In his passing, she saw that her Christopher did not go unnoticed. As the funeral processed to the cemetery she became aware of something. The telephone wires were adorned with shoes. Their laces bound together, they were tossed aloft to wrap around the overhead lines. There were well over a hundred pairs hanging; she witnessed people removing their footwear and adding to the milieu.

Puzzled, she questioned the undertaker. His explanation brought a tear to her eye and a flicker in her already gracious heart.

“When a person passes, tradition had the mourners remove their shoes and by draping the secured pairs over the wires, pay homage to the person so loved. The more shoes that dangled, the more respected was the deceased.” he informed.

Again Jessica looked. And the tear were more abundant now. The entire route to his resting place was graced with shoes. Hundreds and hundreds of pairs pointed to his life as one well lived; having touched many hearts.

It was the greatest tribute he could have been given.

GOSSELIN’S GALLERY – 25 Jan 2013

'Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode"

‘Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode”

EXHIBIT #1 – IN TANDEM

Twin bicycles stood near the front entrance of the abode. It was cozy. A lovely little cottage where life found a way to flourish. Richard used to tease Talia that it was a great home for a swinging bachelor.

“Or for a young couple just starting out… if they were really in love!” he teasingly amended.

It remained home for him after she had passed. He was reluctant to change anything. Richard felt that Talia had worked so hard to make this a proper home and besides, it reminded him of her loving hand in every nuance of this place, he decided to leave it intact.

For forty-three years, they had shared a simple home; their hovel was more of a palace in their eyes. The lack of offspring became a convenient reason to stay.

“This is a great place for the two of us” Talia would mimic, “if only we were in love!” We couldn’t possibly squeeze any children into this small space.”

There was always sadness in her voice when she admitted this. Oh, how much Richard wished it was a problem with his “plumbing”, and not her cancer riddled ovaries. He was glad that early detection had bought them so much time. So what if the had no children, it was the trade-off that gave Richard and Talia a lifetime together.

He held fast to his resolve. The divan would remain by the window. Their chairs would remain side-by-side at the far end of the living room. And the bicycles they used to ride around the villa would stay shackled near the front door. Talia would have wanted it that way.

EXHIBIT #2 – WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…

"She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen."

“She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.”

Chester was a glutton for information. Where everyone had a favorite television program that they would watch and comment upon, Chester’s show ran four times a day. He could be found as a fixture on his couch, remote control at hand at five and six, ten and eleven.

News was his addiction; his obsession. He could tell you the price of oil in Kuwait, and which despotic dictator ran roughshod over his populace. Which celebrity did what with whom. What parts of the county could expect heavy snowfall… Any bit of minutia was fodder for Chet’s fertile mind.

And the world around Chester still went around. Neighbors came and went. So did his wife. She had enough of the constant barrage of depressing news. She wanted to laugh. She needed to dance. She wanted more out of life than a 32 inch phosphorous screen.

And his show continued on. Daily death and destruction. Weekly features about foregone conclusions. Analysis and more analysis. But life as he had once known it had changed. It had been interrupted. And he had never noticed.

—–

"The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk."

“The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk.”

EXHIBIT #3 – HIDEAWAY

Daniel Cavanaugh had finally found success. The latest of his manuscripts had been accepted for publication. It was indeed a proud moment and just the encouragement he needed to further pursue hid ambition.

Cavanaugh had “pretended’ to be a writer for twenty-two years. Always with something to say, or so he thought, he had ideas galore but very little time to hone his already precarious position.

So Daniel packed a small bag and headed for the cabin near Fielding Lake. It was an escape that his family had taken advantage of all these many years. Peace and serenity oozed from the landscape and Daniel knew it was his best shot at completing his latest project.

The place was… rustic. It needed some work, but that would have to wait until he had finished his draft. Cavanaugh took note of the broken hinge on the screen door. A family of birds had nested under the south eave. They added atmosphere; character. It was just the right setting.

He removed the coverlets from the furniture. He dusted off the desk near the rear picture window overlooking the water. Daniel set a pot of coffee to brew. The leather valise landed on the chair near the desk. He stretched his arms out wide and breathed the fresh lake air.

It had been years since his parents had gone leaving him this property. It was almost as many since his face had graced this place. It was always a home away from the confines of home. It was peaceful and serene.

“Work can wait” Daniel mused. “I’ll just enjoy being ‘home'”.

Amidst the water’s splash and the wilderness noises, Daniel fell asleep upon the couch. Work waited. It had little choice.

NO ACCOUNT

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?

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.

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.

TICKET TO RIDE

She disembarked at the station, suitcase in hand from an upper berth on the red eye to Butte. Montana was home once upon a time, before dreams took her to the big cities. New York was a mecca. Los Angeles, a chance at the life she craved.

But cravings dissipate, and mecca gets over-crowded with pilgrims looking for the answers to life. Why do people die? Will she ever get that high profile job? What business did he have leaving her for that perky little waitress from the 43rd Street Cafe?

Rowena had come back, at least for the next week to bury her father and get his affairs in order.

He didn’t have much since the nursing home found an opening for her tired and worn down Dad. He had submerged into a deep and vacuous dementia, not even knowing her the last time she visited.

Rowena stayed at the Boarding house, three rooms down from my little hovel. She had graced my life off and on since high school, but she always had her vision set for “out of here”.

She had lost her smile. I’m sure her father’s passing weighed heavily on her shoulders, but it seemed more than that. She looked… lonely!

I had passed her on the stairs heading for the memorial service, and she had looked right through me. I felt for her. Rowena once had a beautiful smile.

I had asked her if she thought about coming back on a more permanent basis. She shrugged and looked off misty eyed. I wanted to take her into my arms and comfort her, but she needed to escape; her train was to depart in an hour. It was a shame. I think she knew it just by looking at me. I looked… lonely too! I thought it would do us good to be lonely together.

But, she’s leaving today. I think I’m going to be sad.