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In The Dark When It’s Quiet

November 1, 2017 Leave a comment

If not for the pieces of moonlight that filtered through the overhead foliage, Percy would not be able to see the walking path through the suburban forest. He had just hopped off a train a few hours ago and set about finding a place to sleep. He saw the forested park when he emerged from an older residential neighbourhood.

Percy turned off the path and pushed through some foliage until he came to a smooth place among the tree roots. The ground was covered with leaves from previous seasons and made a soft, dry mattress. He shrugged off his backpack and laid out his sleeping bag. The night was warm and clear, so he didn’t need any more shelter.

He lay back on his sleeping bag and just looked at the sky. Most stars were obliterated by the glow of the moon, but many were visible close to the horizon.  Percy reached into his backpack and fished out a sandwich and a bottle of water. While he sat on the ground snacking, he heard footfalls coming on the path. He saw to people jogging by. He knew from their voices as they chatted that one was a man and the other a woman.

A short time later, another jogger passed. Percy assumed it was a man because of his size. Every minute or so, a jogger passed. He lay down in his sleeping bag and set himself to sleep. Sleep eluded him as he found himself lying awake listening for joggers. He wondered how much time had passed. It seemed to him that it must be past midnight. He heard another jogger approaching and he climbed out of the sleeping bag and stood up to see over the bush behind which he’d been lying.

The jogger was a slender young woman. As Percy stepped over the bush he startled the woman. She reacted instantly, jumped back and pulled out a nine millimeter Remington automatic and shot him in the face. He just wanted to ask the time.

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The Dealer’s Place

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

The only interesting thing about the dealer’s place was the people who gathered there most evenings. The time I saw them, they had gathered to enjoy “Star Trek” together. I am uninterested in Star Trek, but I lingered to observe the group. I admit that in my case, I was there to buy some grass from the dealer. The dealer was a very nice, shy guy, about 6 feet tall, 30ish, and considerably overweight. His name was Gregory.

Greg also had a small travel agency, where he struggled to make a living. He didn’t like dealing grass, but the travel agency was barely getting by. I later learned that he’d been orphaned while in his teens, and had been making his way in life as well as he could. His disadvantage was that he was not cool… not smooth. Greg was awkward, and that was probably why his apartment was ground zero for a group of socially awkward people.

The most visible person was David. He was noticeable because he talked a lot, always  with unnecessary urgency. One could almost see him vibrating, so tense was he. I later learned that his mother was severely depressed, and drove him crazy. I’m thinking, he’s about 30, why is he with Mom? He expressed shame that he worked at selling ‘diamond futures’, knowing full well that it’s a worthless product and he’s bilking people. His weirdness kept him from getting a regular job, so telephone hustling is the best he could do.

There were two females, as different from each other as possible. They were not together in any way. Sitting on a black bean-bag chair was a very pretty girl in her 20s. She was dressed in Goth style, all black, some veils, thigh-high boots of black leather and a black shawl. She smoked a joint, did not pass it around, and shrunk back into an obscure corner at the back of the room.

Every person in the room was facing the television set. I sat on a straight chair to the side. On the sofa, Greg joined the two that were already there. Next to Greg was a young woman midget. She appeared to be tiny, seated by large Greg. On her other side was Nick, a rather good looking man in his twenties. He planned to be a rock star singer with a band. He was in the process of auditioning bands. Good luck with that.

Awkward people gathered together, perhaps for safety in numbers. The midget asked me to fetch her a coke. Why me, I thought? I rose and stepped toward the kitchen and turned at the apartment entrance hall and left the apartment.

Requiem For A Friend With Benefits

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

I really didn’t expect anything special to happen; I just wanted to see Julia again. I had a delightful affair with her several years before, and we were always as much friends as lovers. She had a beautiful face. I find that faces almost always fit into a ‘type’. Not that they might look almost exactly like the celebrity, but would be that type. Julia was, believe it or not, an Elisabeth Taylor type, and really remarkably similar in nose, mouth, face shape and dark hair.

Whenever a single mom is saddled with a special needs child my heart breaks for that mom. They are trapped in a way of life that is irrevocable. Julia’s story is one that is, unfortunately, too often repeated. She grew up in a small city where social contacts are limited by fewer opportunities because of fewer people. Often, the prettiest girl in town is from a working class family. Julia’s father worked at the Ford plant and Julia was the prettiest girl in town.

Almost as if it was decreed by an irresistible force, the boy from the richest family in town wanted the prettiest girl in town all to himself. He married Julia, to the great disappointment and disapproval of his parents. Some said he did it just to irritate his parents, but I don’t believe that. Julia was not only pretty; she was an intelligent, educated professional woman with a responsible position in a law enforcement department. That rich boy might not have been able to feel a deep love for anyone but himself because of his background, but he certainly could lust after Julia.

Julia became pregnant and the marriage was all it was ever going to be: a standoff between two people, too young and not really compatible. They were together when the baby was born. The infant should have aborted naturally because she was riddled with defects. The child very soon had to be raised in a special hospital that was capable of the trying task. Her mind was not very capable. She was blind as well and generally capable of very little. In short order, the rich boy husband and father was out of there like a shot.

About a year after that, I met her and we had a wonderful affair. I was married and had two children so many people would consider me a louse. I loved my wife and desired her every day… and every day she rejected me, saying “That’s all you ever think about.”

Well yes, I was a turned on kind of guy. And I was really in love with my wife and found her very desirable. She was slender and pretty and typical of her type. Just for the record, I was not a dog myself as I learned from several women other than my wife. For no apparent reason, she decided making love was not for her.

I knew people who were friendly with Julia, and from time to time I’d hear about how she was doing. I’d learned that she’d married again, to a younger man and again became pregnant. The child was happy and healthy this time. However, it seems the pregnancy triggered dormant Multiple Sclerosis within her. The young husband took off.

I got her phone number from one of her friends and called her for a lunch date. The next day I picked her up at her small flat in an old house and took her to a sidewalk café on a small street of high fashion shops and restaurants. I knew she needed canes to walk, so I chose a place where she could get out of the car and go straight into the restaurant terrace and sit at an umbrella table. We ordered lunch and chatted.

“Why did you always welcome me into your apartment whenever I showed up at your door?” I said. “I was a married man, yet I could show up at your place at eight in the morning or three in the morning and you welcomed me with a pretty smile.” She showed that pretty smile again, across the small table at me. It was a hot July day with just enough breeze to make it comfortable in the shade of the umbrella.

“You were safe,” she said. “You were married, so there wouldn’t be any commitment problems for me. I was out of a really painful marriage and I had no desire to get into another one at that time. And you were very good looking.”

Our meals were brought to the table and we continued to chat over lunch.

“You still do it,” she said with a broad smile on her lovely face.

“I still do what?”

“You still look directly into my eyes while we talk,” said Julia. “I loved that about you.”

“Don’t all men do that?” I said.

“You’d be surprised how unique it is,” she said. “You’re a special man.”

I drove her home. The Georgian style red brick house was three storeys high on a beautiful old street of fine old homes and shady maple trees. She invited me in for coffee and I accepted.

In her flat the air was cool after the blazing hot summer sun. The heavy curtains on her first floor windows were drawn. The rooms were in dim light that spilled through the edges of the curtains. Julia put her canes aside and made her way toward her kitchen with careful steps while she used the wall for stability.

I went to her and put my arms around her and held her close. She clung to me with desperation that told me how lonely she’d been. Her mother had sold a property she’d inherited and moved to Jamaica.

I found fasteners for each of her garments and made her naked while we held each other. I lay her back on her bed.

“You have to move my legs,” she said. I lifted her legs onto the bed.

“Does it hurt?” I said.

“It doesn’t hurt,” she said. “There’s no pain.” I heard in her voice a fear that I might not continue, afraid of doing harm.

I made love with her. It was good to be with her again. She was a very good person. Pretty, light hearted and witty. I often wondered how she could be so positive after all she’d been through. She had a disabled first child and abandonment by her husband. Then she had a healthy child that launched her MS followed by abandonment of her second husband. She had a good, close relationship with her mother. She was to join her mother in Jamaica until the illness struck her and changed her life again.

“You’re even better now than you were in the old times,” she said.

“We live and learn,” I said.

We had our coffee after we’d bathed together. At last I had to leave, and we both knew that we’d not see each other again.

“Thanks for lunch,” she said, “and especially the take-home dessert.”

We laughed together and wished each other good luck. We kissed and I departed. That was many years ago and I’ve since learned Julia passed away and her child is being raised by Julia’s mother in Jamaica.

2 Books, 2 Authors, 2 Plum Trees

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Two books that I consider to be among the best are: A Confederacy of Dunces and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two more books that follow the life of Lisbeth Salander followed the latter. A Confederacy of Dunces stands alone. There will be no more books by Stieg Larsson, who wrote the Salander books, nor from John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Dunces book.

Both books met with immediate acclaim when they were published posthumously. They are, in fact, fabulous stories brilliantly told. Anyone who enjoys reading strong, earthy, beautifully written books must read these four – the three by Larsson and one by Toole.

Films were made of the Larsson trilogy, I’ve not heard of a worthy one for Toole’s book. The American versions of the Salander story, to me, are not worth the time of day. The Swedish versions, with subtitles, are brilliant. The casting, the acting, the script, every scrap of them is great.

Ignatius Jacques Reilly is the morbidly obese and endlessly pompous star of A Confederacy of Dunces. He is unique in literature, and is purely wonderful. The lead character in the Larsson books and films is Lisbeth Slander, the most fascinating and exciting hero you’ll ever read.

You might well wonder where the plum trees come into this story. I used to own a hobby farm in the mountains where I kept horses and sometimes pigs and cows. There’s an ancient apple orchard behind the house. It’s very picturesque, with the old, gnarled trunks and untrimmed limbs.

At far corners of the orchard, diagonal from each other were two, old, sterile plum trees. For years, while the apple trees were bursting with huge, antique apples, the plum trees appeared to be little more than four inch wide sticks in the ground.

Suddenly, one spring, the plum trees came to life. To super life, I want to say. Both trees burst forth with volumes of perfect, beautiful, Damson plums. Bushels of them. Sweet, firm Damson plums from trees that we thought were long dead. They produced a vast amount of wonderful nourishment, and then they died dead. Forever.

Similarly, both Stieg Larsson and John Kennedy Toole burst forth with brilliant books. They created stories and characters unparalleled in modern literature. They nourished readers’ minds with intrigue and excitement. Then they died.

Stieg Larsson died suddenly, of a heart attack at fifty. John Kennedy Toole took his own life at forty-four. I like to think that, like the plum trees, the effort to produce such a fine result was more than life could sustain. They gave their all, the plum trees and the authors. We have their books, and they are as much a blessing as were the plums.

John Kennedy Toole

Stieg Larsson

Toole (top) – Larsson (bottom)

Living in Overtime

October 16, 2017 2 comments

Gloria Steinem is about 83, just 3 years older than I am. I plagiarize her excellent statement: “Most people my age are dead.” It is true, and it feels a bit strange. I can think back to many times and many things that are perhaps unknown by many people.

It is peculiar for me to realize that most of the girls I dated in high school are dead and gone. My first wife died recently, at 77. Men with whom I grew up, some with whom I had business dealings, most are gone. The worst thing about it, about social media, is that I’ve learned that I wasn’t as well liked as I thought I was.

I thought a lot about why some friends since high school would not remember me fondly. The only thing it could be was jealousy. I regarded myself as the same as any of them. Our neighbourhoods were just blocks apart in various directions, and we were a group of teenaged boys and girls, most from the same high school.

In spite of the neighbourhood proximity, it seems my family was somewhat wealthier than others. I was really not aware of it at the time. If I think back and picture some moments, I see what they saw. After a dance, 2 or 3 couples would get into somebody’s father’s borrowed car and head for the coffee house. I would get into my car, which was a new Corvette, and meet up at the coffee house. I didn’t see that I had any advantage or superiority, but they seem to have cloaked me with it.

The few friends I retained, who saw me for who I am without envy, are still friends today. Well, two of them are. The other passed away some years ago. This brings me back to living in overtime. Some old folks forsake the opportunity to explore the world through the Internet. It saddens me, because there is a great deal of pleasure in seeing what’s going on through a faster method than television. The inter-active aspect keeps one busy.

The best thing for a writer to have is a good supply of experiences on which to feed one’s creativity. I can remember horses on the streets of the city, pulling wagons with bread, or milk, cream and butter, or blocks of ice for the ice box. There was the coal man, too. He would carry heavy sacks of coal on a leather-padded shoulder. One after the other, he’d carry them up the driveway and empty each sack through a basement window where a coal chute slid the black rocks into the coal bin.

One of my parents, usually my mother, would go down to the basement from time to time to shovel coal into the old furnace. Sometimes they would clean out the clinkers, the terrible rocks of razor sharp points and edges. The geniuses at my grammar school, which was virtually a 19th century institution, thought it would be good to take clinkers, points and edges and all, and spread them evenly over the schoolyard. You can easily imagine what happened to a kid’s knee and pants when playing tag and falling.

The life and comfort of my great-granddaughter is assured. Wiser heads have prevailed, and safety and comfort of our upcoming generations is a priority. I just enjoy being old, and watching and learning from the varied societies that surround me. I don’t fear death. Never have. Meanwhile, I’m having as much fun as I can until overtime is over the limit.

Most People My Age Are Dead

October 5, 2017 Leave a comment

I plagiarized Gloria Steinem for this title. She’s about 82 now, and still attractive. I am finding old age quite fascinating. I’m my own research subject. Throughout my life, I never contemplated or even thought of myself as becoming elderly. Now that I’m here, with eight decades to look back at, it can be fun.

One thing that’s interesting is learning of the deaths of people one has known over the decades. Some of the people who have passed evoke feelings of sadness; sometimes regret sometimes happiness, sometimes satisfaction or even relief. Living an active, varied life for a long time teaches one many lessons through many adventures and more importantly, misadventures.

I’m not concerned at all about my inevitable death. Still, it interests me to know how many people pass away while I live on. My first wife died the other day. She was three years younger than I am. I’ve also learned that two of the nicest girls I dated in high school died several years ago. Also an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years died in ’03, I just learned. He owed me money. I guess that’s why I hadn’t seen him in years.

I realized I could look through obituaries and see who I’ve outlived. There was a new president brought in at a large, international company for which I worked. The new president was uncomfortable that a major client was deeply dependent upon me, and trusted my judgement completely. I guess he feared I’d take the client to another agency, so he set out to oust me. One by one, my clients where bled away from me until I was let go. The group head that had to tell me, thanked me for how I’d elevated his career.

I searched obits for those guys and a few others, and learned that I’ve outlived all of them. I even found out that a false friend that had back-stabbed me, died of a massive heart attack twelve years ago.

So on I go, gradually outliving friends and enemies along the way. It’s kind of cool.

I Witnessed Sex Reassignment and homosexuality

June 26, 2017 Leave a comment

There are things about which I like to think. I try to understand things that are mysterious to me. I am surprised at what a failure I am in that attempt. I have tried desperately to see the point of view of people that voted for Trump, and continue to believe in him. It is simply not possible to understand how they feel. Perhaps they believe that all the news, from all the media, is merely lies against the great, truthful president. Of course, they are free to support their beliefs, and I feel sorry for them.

I think about sex reassignment, because it’s an amazing thing that it’s possible, thanks to medicine and science. Just today, I began believing that it’s an essential treatment. I learned that Canada’s Province of Ontario Health Insurance will pay for the surgery. They wouldn’t throw tons of money at a surgery that’s optional. I also assume they have research and testing that proves the need.

I have been a male heterosexual all my life. I have had gay employees, gay friends, gay enemies, and a few lesbian lady friends. I also knew a transsexual, and she was terrific, as a person. I was especially impressed that she earned a good living as a stripper. I try to imagine having an artificial body, and displaying it before eager men. Rachel could carry it off, because she had the haughty wit of a gay person, and the boldness of a woman.

She began her transition at 19. Her father is a doctor, and he helped her to get what she needed. Imagine how stressful it was for the man to witness the agony of his innocent son, suffering in his effeminate man’s body. Imagine his love for the boy, to use his position to smooth his son’s way to femininity.

For several years, Rachel was very happy. When asked what she likes to do on weekends, she says she likes to stay in bed, with her girlfriend on one side and her boyfriend on the other side. She’s playful and talented. On stage, her movements are fluid and rhythmic. Men are mesmerized, and don’t notice her male buttocks, which are higher than on women. The navel is lower on the belly than on females, and her hands and feet are a bit large for a woman of her size.

Her hair is long, flowing, silky blonde. Her face is pretty, her eyes are blue, her nose is not small, but neither is it large. She has nice cheekbones, a wide mouth and full lips, much like Mick Jagger. I haven’t communicated with her in several years, and the last time we spoke, I was sorry to hear she was unhappy. Her duality had become a burden, and she couldn’t find a comfortable groove for her life. She felt lost.

She was a terrific girl, a good stripper, intelligent and witty, and somehow, nature gave her an erroneous gender. She designed and made costumes for herself, and for most of the other girls. She lived in a vast loft in an old, downtown building, over a car wash.

I met a gay friend just about two years before he died. He was a successful fashion designer, and I engaged him to do some work for me. The work was terrific. I asked him how much I owed him. He responded morosely, “What’s it matter?”

This was obviously a cue to dig deeper. He was dying of AIDs. He was lonely and alone. All of his friends, gay friends and lovers, completely abandoned him. I didn’t know that gays ostracize their friends and acquaintances when HIV is around.

He was small, the size of a woman, blond hair and lean body. I liked him, and let him make dinner for me a couple of times, and played a card game; I don’t remember what it was. I took him to my hobby farm for a weekend. I got him planting things in the earth, I got him onto a horse and took him through the forest. I wanted to fill him with things his lifestyle didn’t include.

He finally got to where the ‘at home’ daily help from outside services was insufficient, and he was hospitalized. I visited him occasionally, and saw him waste away. One day, when I answered the phone, he said something muffled, and I couldn’t understand what it was. He mustered great control, and asked me to bring lunch. He wanted to have a couple of our city’s favourite foods.

“Lunsh,” he said. “Smomee, coshaw, billickel.” I interpreted that to be “Lunch, smocked meat sandwiches, coleslaw and sour dill pickle.” I went to The Main for our lunch, and took it to the hospital. The hospital is not fussy about what comes and goes on that floor, because everyone there is terminal, and can have whatever they want.

I sat in the visitor’s chair, and we ate the great food in silence. I was amazed at his actions. He was always fastidiously clean, and ate very neatly. In this case, his long, thin fingers plunged between the slices of rye bread, seized a chunk of sliced meat and stuffed it sloppily into his mouth. He ate the coleslaw and the dill pickle with his fingers. I had added an order of their fresh-cut fries, and he stuffed a bunch of them into his mouth, as well.

He sat on the side of the bed with the plastic thing that he was supposed to pee into. He was not fully there, and he held the jug in the wrong place, and peed on the floor. He didn’t notice, of course. We said our goodbyes and I turned to leave to inform the staff of the puddle. At that moment a young woman came through the door.

“Muh sisser,” he said. I said hello to his sister, warned her of the puddle, and went to the nurses’ station to inform them of the pee situation. They thanked me and called for the toxic cleanup department.

I returned to my office. He died that afternoon.