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THE SIMPLE THINGS

Lorraine Jenkins was tired. Between going to nursing school, and pulling a double at the nursing home, Lorraine had every cause to complain. But what purpose would that serve. Her ambition was driven by the need to help people.

She had come up the ranks the hard way, a slim black woman with manly features, but a very compassionate heart. Her mother had done volunteer work in the black hospital in Selma. A product of segregation, Floridine took pride in her work.She put all the compassion she had into caring for her patients. Lorraine recalled how tired and worn her mother looked after hard days. She was touched by how her mother would cry for hours when one of her charges has lost their struggle with life.

And here she was, a single woman dedicated to her work so much that she knew nothing of a social life. Her dream was to finish school and be the nurse her mother always strived to be.

But Lorraine was tired after an exceptionally hard day, Mr. Kettering in room 14 was fighting Pancreatic Cancer. He had been failing rapidly. Lorraine felt the end was drawing near. But Kettering had a spirit; he put up a fight. He was determined to survive to the new year. He promised his granddaughter he would be around for the Holiday.

Lorraine knew such promises were not his to make. But she smiled and nodded. And her eyes had met Mr. Kettering’s and the twinkle that lived there mesmerized her. Somehow, she knew he would not falter.

As she turned on the lights to her small Christmas tree, she sighed. It was one week to the dawn of a new year. Mr. Kettering had made it to Christmas. She smiled inwardly. The old guy was half way home. Lorraine took comfort in that fact. A monumental achievement. A “promise” kept. A simple thing.

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!

HOME SOON

A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snow tracker.

It was a strange twist of fate. All of his luggage made it home fine. But somehow, Andrew Worton never did. How the hell he ended up in the Yukon was beyond any stretch of imagining. Clad in a short sleeved Polo shirt and light khakis, Andrew looked out of place.

And here it was, a week before Thanksgiving and no means of getting out of there until Tuesday. He had resigned himself to missing the dinner. He would not get to sample his mother’s pie. Her health wasn’t what it used to be and his sister was lousy with Mom’s recipes.

Dad was another story. The picture of health and vitality. Golfed twice a week. Swam at the “Y”. Walked the treadmill with great regularity.
Working his way to better health. But something went off course. He had worked himself into a massive heart attack. Andrew wished there was another way.

Stewart Crossing sat mid-province and had been isolated just after Andrew’s flight had landed in Canada. Snows and wind whipping and the cold was stinging Worton’s bare arms. The constable at the landing strip had found Andrew something more suitable, which was a blessing, he thought.

“Don’t think you’ll make the States by  week’s end”, the officer informed, making Andrew more anxious to head on out. “If we can get you to Whitehorse, you can catch a flight there, but getting south looks treacherous.

Frustration had settled in and Andrew did a foolish thing. Bound and determined to get home com hell or high water, he rented some skis and headed southward.

He was making good time, considering, but his legs were tired and sore, and stray caribou mocked him with their trumpeting and snorting. In a clearing was a small village, a new destination.

Nothing spectacular. Some residences, a general store, a postal facility and a snowmobile dealership. Great luck for Andy!

The proprietor felt for the young man and traded an older machine and some gasoline for the cross country skis and the promise to pay him when he got back home. Andrew couldn’t say no.

The further south he went, it seemed the snows followed him. He ran adrift a couple of times. And ran out of gas near Champagne, slightly off course. He sat in the rigging despondent and sure he’d never see his family before he met his end.

Something in the distance. A ping? A tingle? A jingle! Louder and stronger it came. A sleigh pulled by two strange horses and an old driver came alongside the dead snowtracker.

“Ho-ho” the old man said. “Looks like you should’ve stayed put now, doesn’t it.”

Andrew was in no mood, but did agree. The man offered transportation. Andrew accepted and climbed in beside the gentle soul.

“Get on, Musher! Get on, Mudder!” he yelled.

His beasts sprung into a gallop and leaped over a fence rail. The rig rose skyward gaining altitude and Andrew held tightly to the side rail.

“Breaking in the new “guys”” the old man smiled. “A little over a month and I may need backup”.

Andrew stared at the driver and finally realized he had seen him before. The old man glanced a wink at Andrew.

“You know, they’re not going to believe you!” smiling so lively and quick.

“Just get me home, Nick. I’ll worry about that when I get a drumstick in my hand!”

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!”

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.

SUNDAYS IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (AND GEORGETTE)

He sees; She sees

He Sees:

“Hell-o Mamma!” George thinks to himself. A young mother walking with her young daughter.

“Hmmm, I wonder how old?” he muses. “Thirty-two, thirty-three?” never a passing thought to the young girl whose hand she clutches.

Pretty. Dark eyes and an innocent smile, and a body… Again, the daughter becomes invisible. He ogles and ruminates and waits for the right MILF to come along. A perfect stranger takes the seat next to him.

“She IS perfect!” George inwardly notes.

Dark eyes and a curious smile. Pretty. Just like…

“Ahhh! That’s it. Over by the swings.” His attention diverts.

Always the man who notices the skirts and flirts (in his mind) but can never find someone to call his own. And as it always happens, he’ll be going home alone.

She Sees:

“The only empty seat under a tree” Georgette notices. “I hope he doesn’t mind.” she finds herself considerate of the dark haired stranger.

“May I?” she queries.

“Umhph, oh…yeah, sure” George replies distracted.

She scans the park. A serene place, here near the lake. Geese swimming. Bobbing and weaving in the ripples, making more. The elderly gentlemen playing checkers near the walk bridge, breaking the silence with an occasional argument…er, disagreement over a move. And there…

“How sweet” she thinks, “what a beautiful pair! She has her mother’s eyes and smile!”

She thinks about her life, and envisions herself as the mother. Loving, protective, playful… everything her daughter needs at that moment. A perfect place to do it.

“Hmmm, a stay at home mom, perhaps, or a well spent vacation day – the way I would spend it!”

And a wisp of sadness befalls Georgette. She was that mother briefly, in the anticipation of her full term blessing. A blessing turned to a curse. Complications never imagined. Never crossing her mind.

She sees George preoccupied by the couple engaged in their bonding ritual. The old man pounds a fist onto the board sending checker skittering off of the table. She sees her life in flux; indeed of a redux but not on the list of recipients. But, Georgette remains hopeful.
Living vicariously through that special union, accepting their tender smiles as signs that her time would come.

Georgette watches the mother and daughter continue on their way. No tears this time. She is more accepting. It was a good day.

He sees if there are anymore “flowers to pluck”.

She sees that her dreams are alive; a someday mother-to-be holding hope.